Rating: PG-13 for violence, intensity
Run Time: 1 hour, 36 minutes
Folk of my generation and older have long-lasting psychological scars from the 1960 version of “The Time Machine”, with the heinous Morlocks filling up the shadowy, wounded recesses once occupied by Oz’s flying monkeys. So why meddle with a good thing?
With forty years of enhanced technology at hand, “The Time Machine” can only be improved upon, right? Think again. A wan and chiseled Guy Pearce (“Memento”) is the infamous Alexander Hartdegen, the ultimate mad-scientist who is determined to prove that the unthinkable notion of time travel can become a reality. Between tinkering with his crazy contraption and teaching university courses, Alexander finds the time to fall in love. When a very real tragedy threatens that love, Alexander discovers a useful application for his madcap experiment.
Gentlemen, start your engines. Hartdegen’s journey starts small, with “trips” backing up only a day or two of time. With the painful realization that these missions are a futile attempt at revising dark deeds, Hartdegen pulls out the stops, traveling all over time and kingdom come. The future (Lunar Leisure Living!), more future, (a 2037 wasteland), and, inexplicably, the year 802,701.
Goodbye socialism, philosophy, and the class-consciousness that were the tenets of H.G. Wells’ science-fiction classic; hello bland CG-saturation that leeches the storytelling out of everything it touches. 800,000 years of evolution yield nothing more than sets straight off “The Lion King” stage, and heavily-tattooed natives mercilessly stalked by the Stan Winston-ized Morlocks. Hartdegen’s response to this contemporary nightmare is to rally the be-thonged throngs for a counter-attack – a thinly-veiled excuse to develop the film into a preposterous action-adventure that smacks heavily of the laborious “The Mummy”.
Pearce looks perpetually befuddled, clearly not a veteran of big-budget blue-screen techniques. His futuristic lady-love, Irish pop-star Samantha Mumba, gives a credible performance, but can’t overcome the silly scripting and trumped-up production. Sets are lavish, as are a handful of skillful time-elapse scenes. Give me back hunky Rod Taylor and his group’s endearing, 1960 baby-steps towards melodrama and special effects – please.
The producers and director Simon Wells (great-grandson of H.G.) claim that their new film is an “homage” to the cautionary masterpiece – not a remake. I call that the quintessential excuse for turning a classic into a forgettable piece of entertainment fluff.