How strange that during a screening of “The Time Machine” my own watch would become a source of so much fascination. In fact, I found myself glancing at my timepiece about every ten minutes of the interminable 96-minute running time of this latest tragic remake of a classic genre picture.
George Pal’s 1960 original, also based on the classic H.G. Wells science fiction novel, starred a driven Rod Taylor, who travels forward in time to discover a race of beautiful people known as the Eloi who are preyed upon by the Morlock. These underground-dwelling hunters feed on the Eloi like cattle and George (Rod Taylor) attempts to break the vicious cycle.
The 2002 model of “Time Machine” features pretty much exactly the same story, but delivered completely without inspiration. However, this time there’s an odd twist providing motivation for Alexander Hartdegen’s (Guy Pearce) journey. In the original, George was merely an explorer, in the remake, Alexander seeks to reunite with his fiancée Emma (Sienna Guillory). In the film’s opening scene, she is tragically killed in a mugging mishap in a New York City park. Four years later, Alexander has invented his Time Machine and seeks to travel back in time to save her. He finds his Emma, then takes a different way through the city where she is tragically run over by stampeding horses. Now, that may sound ridiculous when you read it, but it’s even more spectacularly funny on the big screen. Emma dies to the sounds of uproarious audience laughter. It’s an utterly stupid plot device. Laughter was not exactly the reaction that I’m sure the filmmakers were looking for. (But who to blame? Director Simon Wells, who was reported to have had a nervous breakdown on the set. Or Gore Verbinski, who replaced Wells after the meltdown. Perhaps Simon Wells felt intense pressure at the thought of bringing his own grandfather and author H.G. Well’s film to the screen.) Alexander can beat time, but apparently fate is something that cannot be defeated. He journeys into the future to unravel this riddle. Unfortunately, the audience is not along for this ride as we’re still laughing at the hysterical “horses-smashing-the-girlfriend” incident. Because we’re left not caring at all, the rest is eye candy. And that’s actually pretty dull too. Honestly, I have to say, while digital landscapes, cities, and vistas can be breathtaking, just about every other digital effect leaves me cold. Why? Because I am painfully aware that it is a special effect. Not that digital effects look fake, they just don’t look real. And I know you know what I am talking about. A digital monster is just not particularly scary. Monster make-up is still far more frightening. This digital stuff just still looks and moves like a video game.
So, we follow Alex 800,000 years into the future where we meet the Eloi . In the original, George had his eye on blonde hottie Weena (Yvette Mimieux). Sure, she was dumb, but man, what a woman. In the remake, Alex falls for Mara (Samantha Mumba). Yawn. The plot follows about the same course as the original, with Mara being brought into the Morlock’s underground lair. Alex rushes to save her and confronts the Uber-Morlock, who basically looks like 70s rocker and albino Edgar Winter, but here is played by Jeremy Irons. The two face off – for one whole scene! And that one scene is about the most cliché “villain-versus-hero” face off of the new millennium.
Okay, so I may have ruined the whole movie with this review. But I promise you that it’s not as bad as actually seeing this latest remake atrocity. I have to say, I’m getting fed up with classic films being remade or ruined by being turned into “Special Editions” that are less than special. When the DVD is released, you can take “The Time Machine” and throw in Planet of the Apes and Rollerball to complete a craptacular boxed-set of classically ruined remakes.