Thursday, March 19, 2009

Fim Review: 'The Time Machine' – 7.0/10

Film Review: Sci-Fi • Adventure (2002)
'The Time Machine'
Written by Joé McKen on Thursday, March 19, 2009

Even in a ravaged and primitive future, humanity still somehow makes some really cute chicks in Simon Well’s 2002 The Time Machine.

Simon Wells’ 2002 adaptation of the eponymous HG Wells classic (which I have yet to read), The Time Machine, is a curious movie in the sense that it’s an eclectic mixture of both good and negative elements. The result is a movie that, while interesting and entertaining, feels rather disjointed in its tale. (But then, it’s not like real life has any real coherence, either.)

HG Wells’ original nameless Time Traveler now has a name, in the form of Professor Alexander Hartdegen (Guy Pearce), an 1899 New York City-based mathematician and inventor who’s obsessed with time travel (foreshadowing enough?). Though fairly shy and religiously dedicated to his work, he also finds the time to court the pretty Emma (Sienna Guillory) and even asks her hand in marriage. Unfortunately, a freak robbery ends with Emma fatally shot, and a guilty and fervent Alexander subsequently exiles himself in his study, working day and night on his calculations until finally, four years later, he completes his time machine (which I must say, certainly looks up to the job).

Intent on preventing Emma’s seemingly premature death, he turns back the clock four years and makes sure he brings her far away from the location of the robbery, yet once again she dies in a freak accident. Realizing that she’s destined to die and there’s nothing he can do about it, as shown from his thoughtful quote, ‘I could go back a thousand times … and watch her die a thousand ways’, he decides to screw it with the unhappy past (his present) and instead heads to the future, in search of the answer to his one question: ‘Why can’t I save her?’ (the answer to which, given much later, actually makes a surprising amount of sense, in a paradoxal sort of way). He lands in the future, circa 2030, where vehicles fly and the Empire State Building is dwarfed by the shiny futuristic skyscrapers. However, his time-travels, and troubles, are still far from over – you might say they’ve only just begun, as he soon somehow lands himself 800 millennia in the future and discovers a world quite unlike our own. And not in the good way.

One of the key points of any time-travel film – or any Sci-Fi film, really – are the special effects used to tie reality with fiction. The Time Machine’s effects are a motley mix of decent effects – seeing the shattered Moon swerving nauseatingly close to Earth in a future scene is particularly intriguing and frightening – while others, such as some of the CGI and animatronics work for some of the less-than-friendly creatures of tomorrow, are less than spectacular. Actually, they quite frankly stink. No creature is gonna be fear-inspiring, to an audience anyway, when their faces look like they’re made of wooden masks with rubber eyes and a lack of dental care.

One strong point to discern of the movie is its score. Brought to us by the relatively unknown Klaus Badelt, it’s wonderfully beautiful and fits the various themes and feels of the movie very well, from bright-eyed wonder at a new world to the dark and dangerous underworlds of the future, and includes the type of African chant-like theme for a future people that I do have a weakness for, despite it being nothing original. Badelt definitely deserves the award he got for this film’s soundtrack, being crowned Discovery of the Year from the 2003 World Soundtrack Awards. This is a soundtrack I might just get for myself (if I find it).

There are several questions the film raises, willingly or not, that are not answered at the end – how do humans still know English 800,000 years into the future? How have humans remained physically (and mentally) unchanged in such a formidable timespan, when current humans, 800,000 ago, were just a few steps away from Australopithecus? How did sensitive glass and electronic equipment from a library survive the apocalypse, not to mention how is it still functioning without electricity, in a darkened cave? Those are questions perhaps we just shouldn’t ask, though it definitely hurts the movie in that it didn’t at least try to answer them.

Overall, The Time Machine likely won’t bring viewers anything worth remembering for years later, or perhaps even past a few hours after the viewing, but it certainly fulfils the nonetheless crucial purpose of effectively killing time when there’s nothing better to watch or do. Not a masterpiece, but better than the ratings it received from harsher critics, I think.

Giving us a decent Sci-Fi experience with intriguing developments yet underwhelming effects and details, merits DreamWorks’ The Time Machine 7.0 falling lunar chunks out of 10.

Alexander Hartdegen: Guy Pearce • Mara: Samantha Mumba • Emma: Sienna Guillory • Kalen: Omero Mumba
Crew & Credits
Director(s): Simon Wells • Writer(s): David Duncan, John Logan. Based on novel by HG Wells. • Original Score: Klaus Badelt
General Information
Distributed by: DreamWorks (USA) • Released: March 08, 2002 • Running Time: 96 mins • Budget: US$80 million • Rated: PG-13


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