The Time Machine (2002) – movie review

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Movie Review by Dr Kuma

Starring: Guy Pearce, Samantha Mumba, Jeremy Irons, Yancey Arias, Philip Bosco

Directors: Gore Verbinski, Simon Wells

For those of you who have read the HG Wells novel, or love the 1960 original, just stay where you are, don’t plan going to see this at the weekend, you will only be disappointed with what you will find there. However, if you don’t read or watch TV then you might glean something from this, the latest ‘re-imagining’ of a classic movie and novel that simply gets it all wrong.

The problems start within the first five minutes. Instead of the intriguing premise of the original, set on New Year’s eve of a new century, we get a flawed murder/thriller opening that seems to get lost along the way. It seems as though we could lose this all together and revert to the original story line, as it has no real effect on what follows, although it should have- the loss of a loved one seems quickly forgotten here.

Our hero George (Guy Pearce) has invented a time machine, although there is no prologue saying how or why he did. He goes back in time when his girlfriend is murdered, only to lose her again. He also becomes ‘lost in time’ stopping off at a point in man’s future where two races exist, those of the Eloi and the subterranean Morlocks, headed by a Bowie-esque Jeremy Irons. George must help save the Eloi and help save the future of man.

The problem here is two-fold. Although time has passed and computer graphics have taken hold, this movie possesses none of the charm or imagination of the original (even though it is directed by a descendent of H G Wells himself). It seems odd that future man tends to build everything around the time machine – at no point does anything appear on the site it stands. The other problem is the casting. Although I am a huge fan of Guy Pearce he is ineffectual here, a pale comparison to the ‘hero’ of the original, Rod Taylor, who gave great pathos to his role. Also, Samantha Mumba is OK but not essential. When George arrives, Miss Mumba is the only person that speaks George’s language, however, as soon as she is a captive of the Morlocks, her tribe all talk to George in perfect English! Another strange fact is that this is only a specific part of the future world, about a mile in diameter, just in the area known as downtown New York, so surely this wouldn’t affect the future of man?

A couple of nice references appear in the movie. The talking hologram/library is a nice touch and include references to the director George Pal as well as Wells and also talks about how THE TIME MACHINE became a musical in the early 21 st century. The lyrics the hologram sings from the show are a very good pastiche of Lloyd Webber and one of the more amusing, if needless, parts of the picture.

I was really looking forward to seeing this film, but in my opinion this is nearly as bad as the remake of PLANET OF THE APES and that’s saying something.

Dr Kuma’s verdict: If I had a time machine I’d have gone forward in time, read my review, and not bothered with this ineffectual and lame remake. Do yourself a favour

3 out of 6 stars