The Time Machine

The Time Machine


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Although this is by no means a brilliant movie, it functions surprisingly well as a piece of entertainment, and it didn't annoy me as I had expected it to. Thankfully, its divergence from the book is clear and functional; one never gets the impression that it's trying to change the original story, nor that it is pretentious enough to think it can improve upon it; rather, it is a different story using some of the same ideas and events. The tragedy, perhaps, of an alternate Einstein.

The choice of Simon Wells, the author's grandson, to direct, at first seemed simply gimmicky, and therefore worrying, but he actually does a reasonable job. While many of the shots are derivative, copied from a hundred predecessors without much imagination, Wells comes into his own with the morlocks, especially where there is rushing about to be done; he also handles the speeded-up time scenes impressively for a first-timer; and one is left with the impression that he might have done a better job overall had he been given more time to storyboard. He coaxes a good performance from the film's only child star, and the actress who plays the time traveller's doomed fiancee is also impressive within the limits of her role.

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Jeremy Irons really hams it up as the chief morlock, but doesn't seem to have been given much option by the clunky script. Guy Pearce is a puzzling lead, at times desperately out of his depth, mostly getting away with it due to his skill at looking lost and miserable as he mumbles his lines and does a bizarre impression of Nick Cave.

The weakest part of this film is its tendency to have characters speak the plot, outlining the very simplest points over and over to be sure that the stupidest audience members might grasp them; but at least some attempt is made to demonstrate the perspective of the morlocks, who always get short shrift in these adaptations.

The Eloi are a less whimsical, in some ways more believable people, who seem to have developed from Polynesian islanders in what must surely be a nod to Sheckley (the whole film is littered with literary science fiction references). Special effects here work better than usual; the morlocks move impressively, making some chase scenes genuinely scary, though nothing has quite the visual impact of Wells Jr's broken moon. So forgive it the cheesy music and historically dodgy short-cuts; it all works well enough, in its way.

Reviewed on: 27 Jun 2007
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An inventor travels through time to try to change the past.
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Angus Wolfe Murray **1/2

Director: Simon Wells, Gore Verbinski

Writer: John Logan, based on the novel by HG Wells

Starring: Guy Pearce, Samantha Mumba, Jeremy Irons, Omero Mumba, Orlando Jones, Mark Addy, Phyllida Law

Year: 2002

Runtime: 96 minutes

BBFC: PG - Parental Guidance

Country: US


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