“My question is why can’t one change the past?”: ‘The Time Machine’ Review
In honor of Apocalypse Month here at Kulture Shocked, what better film to revisit than a movie that directly takes us into the very end of the world where civilization has devolved into their primitive selves again.
Written by John Logan (writer of such modern classics like The Aviator, Hugo) and directed by Simon Wells (who is the great grandson of The Time Machine author, H.G. Wells), this remake of the 1960 George Pal original is an exciting adventure that is at times exhilarating and frustrating.
The classic story of a man who builds a time machine and travels far into the future gets a few upgrades in this revamp, including a tragic love story. Starring Guy Pearce, as Dr. Alexander Hartdegen, the story moves forward when his fiancé (played by Sienna Guillory) is murdered, and he dedicates his time to building a machine that will allow him to travel back in time and prevent her death.
This plot development certainly adds to the cyclical nature of the film but at the same time it’s part of the old trope of killing female characters to motivate the male character and that’s where the film creates a double-edged sword for itself. The love story is an innocent and heartwarming angle that the remake uses to not only humanize Hartdegen but also give him a purpose of building a time machine; unfortunately it also adheres to that controversial story plot thread of killing off the girl to motivate the male character.
Aside from that controversial choice, the new version of the classic novel boasts some spectacular visuals (including the version of Earth where the Morlocks and the Eloi live) and a great score by Hans Zimmer protégé, Klaus Badelt. It’s hard to make a satisfying adaptation of one of the most beloved stories in science fiction history, but Simon Wells’ version is entertaining in its attempt to differentiate itself from the 1960 original. While it never quite reaches up to the classic standard of George Pal’s dazzling Metrocolor feat, Logan and Wells come up with clever changes and additions to make this version worth watching. The addition of Jeremy Irons as the evil and calculating Uber-Morlock is one of the best aspects of the film. In fact, one of the most fascinating scenes in the movie is the one between Irons and Pearce’s Alexander in which they discuss the ramifications of his actions and how time works. It could be seen as one of those Bond villain monolog scenes, but there’s something elegant about listening to him philosophize about time travel, destiny and cause, and effect.
Since Wells used to be an animator (The Time Machine was his live-action directorial debut), the film has a breathtakingly creative look to it. There’s a reason why some of the visuals in the movie are so memorable, and that’s because he comes from that animation background which allows him to explore visuals that are so imaginative that they would just be impossible to do in live action.
The film also benefits greatly from an excellent supporting cast, led by a game performance by Guy Pearce. Game of Thrones’ Mark Addy as a colleague to Alexander and Samantha Mumba as a young Eloi woman deliver excellent supporting turns in the film.
The Time Machine, while not as great as the George Pal original, is an entertaining sci-fi adventure that is worth watching. There are a lot of great imaginative visuals, and it even attempts to answer some philosophical questions about the nature of time and more. It doesn’t necessarily explore them as much as one would like to but it still manages to convey a sense of scope and imagination wrapped in an entertaining adventure.