The Time Machine
2 stars

by Stephen Notley

Yep, it's true: The Time Machine is a thin bit of fluff, just as the trailers suggest.

It looks nice enough, I'll give it that. The snowy 19th century setting at the beginning, the new Time Machine with its brass pipes and jewel knobs, the dusty chalkboards with mathematical formulae all over them... nice clean look, warm to the eye. And the first few minutes buys some time with a couple of okay little "time touches", references to Einstein and brand new perambulators (or "cars", as we've come to call them in our futurey way).

Ah, but then the rest is so lame, and the stuff that doesn't work starts piling up, and suddenly you're not having any fun any more.

First off, the time travel on display here is far, far less elegant or challenging than what we'd see in, say, Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure. There are no fancy bowtie-shaped trajectories through 4D-spacetime; this trip is blandly one-dimensional, and unidirectional to boot. By which I mean, he bops forward to 2037, bops another ten years ahead, then bops once more to 800,000 AD, and that's pretty much it for the time machining. To be fair, that's all from the book, but still, it's bland.

The problem here seems to be that doing a remake of The Time Machine must have sounded like a good idea, ie. "Let's do a jazzed-up version of the Time Machine! You know, with CGI Morlocks and some fancy time travelling effects and hey, we can get that 7-Up guy to be a bit-player hologram, can't we? And surely there's no reason we can't get Jeremy Irons in for a couple of afternoons, paint him white, give 'im some bad-guy dialogue, right?"

This movie is all about its extra *stuff*, you see, rather than being about, you know, something. Not that they didn't try, of course. In the original book, and in the 1960 movie, the time traveler is basically just a tourist, bounding forward in time because he's curious. His adventures play out like a travelogue, with a dab of social satire.

But "social satire" isn't a phrase that pumps much juice in the gut of the average Hollywood producer. Modern screenwriting demands punchier. Our hero's got to have more drive, more narrative arc, as they say. So this time out, he has a *purpose*: to try to save his girlfriend by going back in time. Except he finds he can't, so now he's trying to find out why "you can't change the past." 

The thing is, you could have a movie about a guy who's trying to use his time machine to save his lover, no problem. But it wouldn't be The Time Machine. In other words, there's no real reason why that story would have anything to do with going 798,000 years into the future to fight monsters, even if you do see Jeremy Irons at the end.

Plus, frankly, the movie's extra "stuff" just isn't any good. For instance, maybe you were wondering if the 7-Up guy, Orlando Jones, was as irritating in the movie as he is in the trailer. The sad answer is yes. And then there are the monsters, the Morlocks. If you loved --and I mean LOVED-- all that stuff in the new Planet of the Apes where chimps jump over bushes and land on hapless humans, then maybe you'll feel something when you see the same thing happen here. Otherwise, you'll be thinking about how computer-animating a monster isn't the same as making him scary. Hell, the toothy, pudgy-beefy white-haired morlocks from the 1960 Time Machine movie were freakier.

And, and, and... I could go on about what's no fun or outright lame. I could mention the weak Lion King-style Circle of Life music that plays in the future village, or Jeremy Irons' total pointlessness in this movie --even lamer than in Dungeons and Dragons! But why go on? Why not just stop now?