THE TIME MACHINE needs to be invented, so we can use it to go back to 2002 and convince the makers of this travesty update of the H.G.Wells classic to look for a different story to wreck. The real shame is that current and future audiences may look to this (it did make $125,000,000) instead of the lovingly produced 1960 version, let alone the 1895 book.
It wobbles from the get-go, rights itself for a few sequences, then goes off the rails and snores to a finish. The previous Time Traveller film hurtled, had charm, thrills and freshness. This one trips over its own feet, with ill-advised locale shifting, extraneous subplots, unbelievable (and worse, unexciting) action scenes, confused resolutions. Add miscasting, lazy audience pandering, weak attempts at levity, dead emotional and dramatic spaces and you get 96 minutes of glancing at your watch.
H.G.Wells great-grandson Simon Wells directed, at least until he suffered “extreme exhaustion” and was replaced by Gore Verbinski. Guy Pearce, slight and nervous (with his mouth perpetually half-open) is a good actor, but he’s all wrong in this film, with none of Rod Taylor’s charisma, wonder or physicality from the earlier film. The future-girl this time is played by the pretty & sexy Samantha Mumba, who is half-dressed in the traditional manner expected of natives in exotica/sci-fi storydom. Since most pretend adventures are written by nerds in their twenties or by middle-aged guys—and at middle-age, you’ve become a nerd by default—it is axiomatic that the imperiled damsel with untamed hair add to her lack of apparel with bemused glances and hopeful smiles that basically say “I will mate with you readily.” Oh, to keep you from falling out of your barcalounger in suspense—it’s 800,000 years in the future, and she speaks “the ancient tongue”. Jeremy Irons is tacked in as a leader of the Morlocks, to no avail for either story or performer. At least he doesn’t pretend to be from New York.
The turn-of-century launching pad of 1900 is retained, but shifted from Victorian England to New York, even though best friend Mark Addy , plot-convenience girlfriend Sienna Guillory and housekeeper Phyllida Law are all Brits playing Americans, unconvincingly (Addy especially clangs wrong right off the bat). Toss in Orlando Jones for comic relief–it’s pathetic.
The time machine itself is neat, but missing the elegant beauty of form of the original: it looks too much like a bunch of shiny pipes. There’s no build-up to it either. The stops on the journey to the future are perfunctory. Effects are good but they leave no dazzle behind. The $80,000,000 budget is eighty times as great as the earlier film, but instead of a “wow” whats produced is a “meh”. Klaus Badelt does what he can with the score.
The Morlock creatures have no impact this time, no fear, no suspense. Anyone else notice that they patterned their faces after the Sphinx motif from the 1960 movie? They’re supposed to be night creatures, yet they attack in broad daylight? They run on all fours like greyhounds on crack, yet our humans outpace them?
A major letdown, it got poor reviews. For some laffs check out Roger Ebert’s and that of Mark Bourne at DVD Journal.
The makeup was nominated for an Oscar, losing to Frida. With Omero Mumba (brother of Samantha, but playing her son, a kid we’re supposed to care about—hint:kids who watch these movies don’t care about kids in these movies), and Alan Young, in a bit part as a gesture to his nice supporting role in the early version).