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Movie Reviews

The Time Machine  
Starring: Guy Pearce, Yancey Arias, Samantha Mumba, Orlando Jones, Jeremy Irons
Written By: H.G. Wells (novel) David Duncan (earlier screenplay) John Logan (screenplay)
Directed By: Simon Wells

Rated: PG-13 (Violence)
Running Time: 97 Min.
The Time Machine
The Time Machine
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Wow! A big studio remake of the H.G. Wells adventure The Time Machine, with great special effects and Guy Pearce as the traveler himself! Imagine the possibilities! Imagine the excitement! Imagine the wonder! Imagine how completely uninspired it could be! No, wait... strike that last one, since that's the only thing you need not imagine about this flat, joyless exercise in fantasy storytelling.

Guy Pearce is indeed our hero, Alexander Hartdegen, who comes across more as a turn of the century absent-minded professor than a brilliant scientific genius. He lives in the year 1899, in that part of New York City where everyone still speaks with an English accent. Through a tragic turn of events not included in the original story, he is motivated to construct a time machine of, you guessed it, his own invention. His goal... to change the past!

The scenes that follow are often visually interesting, but include only a bare minimum of actual plot to back them up. The main problem is that, by giving Alexander a very emotional motivation for traveling through time, the screenwriter has given the impression that there will be some character development involved in resolving his problems. Not only is there no character development, but no plot resolution, since the rest of the events unfold in ways relatively faithful to the H.G. Wells adventure story. The result is that we are simply along for the ride, with no reason to really care about Alexander or his paradoxical plight. After a while, Alexander even seems to forget why he wanted to time travel in the first place!

Since the screenplay already changes this story around, I would have liked to have seen some more original aspects. How did Alexander construct his machine? Where did he get the materials? Why was it constructed the way it was? Were there any test-runs or failed attempts to time travel? Sadly, none of these ideas are explored in the movie.

Now, by this time you may have the impression that I really hated this movie, but I didn't. It's not an entirely bad film, it's just incredibly flawed.

I did enjoy nearly everything that took place in Alexander's own time, during the first half-hour of the movie. Also, I was very surprised with Orlando Jones, whose character turns out to be both funny and tragic at the same time. Fans of irony will appreciate that Orlando Jones' character, a computerized holographic database, carries more emotional impact than any other character in the film! In addition, a cameo appearance by Jeremy Irons yields some entertaining moments, even though his character only serves to point out details to Alexander that are all too obvious to everyone in the audience.

The visual effects were also very good, but not spectacular. Unfortunately, a bit of spectacle is exactly what this film could have used. Too bad, since in the hands of a more imaginative filmmaker, this could have been a great movie. So, if you decide to see The Time Machine, that's entirely up to you. Just remember that it's a decision you won't be able to go back and erase!


2 out of 5

AJ Vestal

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