The Time Machine

Shame on Simon Wells. He is the great grandson of H. G. Wells, so he should know better in this latest adaptation of The Time Machine. Wells (the elder) wrote such novels as The Invisible Man, The Island of Dr. Moreau, The War of the Worlds, and The Time Machine, considered by many to be the first science fiction novel. Novel may be a stretch, since the book itself is relatively short. And it was less about science fiction and more an attack on class structure in England at the time. Wells' (the younger) adaptation forgoes the deeper meanings of the book in favor of a slam-bang big stupid action movie. Because of the brevity of the original, Wells (Balto, The Prince of Egypt) and John Logan (Any Given Sunday, Gladiator) needed to add plot, both to add substance and motivation to the characters. It is what they added that make The Time Machine falter.

Now, Dr. Alex Hartdegan (Guy Pearce, The Count of Monte Cristo, Memento) is hurtling forward through time because of Emma (Sienna Guillory, Oblivious, Going Down). Emma was his girlfriend, viciously murdered at the hands of a robber. Hartdegan built the machine to go back in time and save her, but fate intervened in a scene that should be poignant, but is unintentionally hilarious. Now, not knowing what to do, Hartdegan finds himself going further into the future to seek answers. He travels 800,000 years into the future, only to discover that humanity now lives in a primitive state. There seem to be two races, the peaceful Eloi who live above ground, and the monstrous Morlocks who live under the earth. Mara (Irish pop star Samantha Mumba) befriends him and teaches him the ways of her people, but is hesitant to impart information about the Morlocks or where all the older adults are.

Although Logan and Wells add much plot, they fail to explain a lot. This film makes sense because most people know the general plot of the original story. The Time Machine could be the type of movie that science fiction junkies die for, yet there is no explanation about how Hartdegan's machine works, or any of the bizarre temporal paradoxes that may stem from his jaunt into the future. In the future, how can he be in a library and look at books he wrote when he never stayed in the past to write them? How come nobody ever says anything about his time machine, conveniently parked in the street? Nothing really happens in the first two-thirds of the movie. It looks like a nice travelogue, with Hartdegan jumping forward looking for answers. The last third brings about an abrupt change into a bad action movie. Any sense of nuance Pearce tried to bring to Hartdegan loses out to the inane story. Up to this point, Hartdegan is a bookish professor with little social flair. Now, he is a manly man. And shame on Jeremy Irons. He won an Academy Award, but now seems only to be trolling for a paycheck. Irons (Dungeons & Dragons, The Night of the Iguana) plays the Uber-Morlock, nearly a complete waste of time on his part.

Haro Rates It: Pretty Bad.
1 hour, 36 minutes, Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of action violence.

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