ninth symphony films - movie reviews


DIRECTOR  -  gore verbinski, simon wells

RATED  -  pg-13

GENRE  -  fantasy

LENGTH  -  96 minutes

RELEASED  -  8 march 2002

DISTRIBUTOR  -  dreamworks/warner bros.

OFFICIAL SITE  -  the time machine

ESTIMATED BUDGET  -  $80,000,000
the time machine - a shot from the film


buy the dvd from the time machine at

buy the dvd from the time machine at

a man invents a time machine that allows him to travel 800,000 years into the future.

director simon wells is the great-grandson of h.g. wells who wrote the book upon which this movie is based.


picture from the time machine

picture from the time machine

picture from the time machine


two out of four possible stars

It's more than difficult to create a good film based on a novel. It's next to impossible to create a good film based on a good novel. And a film based on a classic? It's like trying to hit a bullseye the size of a dime from a mile away. But it's been done, and quite successfully, with the first film version of the The Time Machine, a film that has become a classic iteslf. That film included an emphasis on including the originality and intelligence of the book. But now in 2002, the great grandson of H.G. Wells is unable to bring the magic and wonder off the page and into the movie. Lost are the complex political dealings of the two divided societies of humans in 800,000 A.D. And gone is that social consciousness which permeates all of well's novels.

This film has taken the highlights of the book most suited to digital translation and splashed them onto the screen with more attention paid to the special effects than the social effects of the film. Granted, the world is in a different political state than it was in the late nineteenth century, but this "dumbing down" of a novel so defined by it's insight into the human psyche is disappointing. And particularly ironic, given that the author's great grandson was at the helm of this film. At least until he cried off and left the picture, citing the reason of physical exhaustion as the reason for his departure. But it is interesting that the director should harbor such a complaint, given that it was the special effects houses on this picture which seemed to work the hardest. Every shot in the film seemed to contain some sort of digital magic.

Which is actually a success in some respects. The cgi shots looked more than professional and were quite successful as eye candy. And since the film relies heavily on those effects, the fact that they're well done is a plus. As far as the structure of the story goes, the film takes too much of a light winded approach to take the film seriously. It's really focused on creating a bland enough product that will appeal to the largest possible audience. The story and characters have suffered because of this insistence on creating a film with such broad appeal. The script especially is damning because of how juvenile it makes its characters sound. H.G. wells was a science fiction writer who wrote intelligent stories that just happened to be science fiction stories.

This film takes all the hard work wells (the author, not the director) put into his novel and slims it down so that the only familiar element left in the film is the idea of time travel. Even the inclusion of the political dealings and machinations between the waring species of humans in the future could have been included, if not relied upon, to create an interesting story. But for the most part, this film starts off with a little bit of wonder and originality and quickly decends into standard "stupid" action fare. It's a chase film with an under-used Jeremy Irons chasing Guy Pearce 800,000 years in the future. There's no complexity in their relationship. And the picture really suffers for it because these two actors are capable of so much more.

In fact, if this film had a bit more going for it in the brain pan department, the appeal would shift, or extend, rather, to older demographics. Currently, it has a children's film menality. But the special effects were already there to impress the kids in the audience, so adding a little bit of intelligence would have broadened the audience. wWhich would have meant bigger box office. It's been proven time and time again with big budget spectaculars with tiny brains don't equal record attendance. And it's proven here once again in The Time Machine, an adventure directed towards a young audience.

Just a last word now on areas of the film not related to script, and that's the art direction and casting. Guy Pearce and Jeremy Irons were obvious good choices, but the addition of Mark Addy was a minor stroke of genuis. habitually banished to supporting roles (The Full Monty, A Knight's Tale), it's certain that Addy will bring a lot to the picture. Whatever dialogue he's given, whether it be impressive or juvenile, he delivers it so well. He's possibly the most underappreciated actor in this cast and each second he's on the screen is a fortunate one for the film. A word now also on the casting of the futuristic "Eloi" people that Guy Pearce comes into contact with when he travels 800,000 years into the future.

Each person looks to be a mixture of every kind of race existing on the planet today. Not quite white, black, hispanic, or asian, but something inbetween. Like all the races of the world just kind of combined after 800,000 years of inter-marraige. Though it's a small touch for the film, it's still one of the more intelligent choices by the filmmakers. And finally, though it's not given nearly enough screen-time, the time machine that pearce uses to hop around time is quite creative. Though the specifics of it could have been explained, the machine itself is impressive. So as a last word on the film, it's certain that more could have been accomplished with the novel to script translation of this film. Well's original idea is simplified too much for the movie to make any sort of impact beyond it's simple action fare persona.

Review by Kelsey Wyatt.

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