The Time Machine


Directed by: Simon Wells
Written by:John Logan
Starring: Guy Pearce, Samantha Mumba, Jeremy Irons, Orlando Jones, Mark Addy, Phyllida Law, Sienna Guillory
Released: April 11, 2002
Grade: B

On the dawn of the 20th Century, Professor Alexander Hartdegen (Pearce) has made an important discovery.  He realises that he has made his scientific work his number one priority for too long and that his girlfriend, Emma (Guillory), deserves more attention.  The two meet in a snow covered park in New York and Alex pulls the ultimate surprise by asking her to be his wife.  Instantly accepting, the two embrace but the moment is instantly transformed when they are set upon by a mugger and Emma is accidentally shot and killed when refusing to hand over her engagement ring.

Driven by Emma’s death, Alex becoming a recluse and resumes his research in the basement of his house.  After four years, he comes upon the ultimate find - the ability to travel through time.  He uses his time machine to travel back in time to stop the mugger from killing his fiancé and whilst successful, she is killed in another freak accident.  From this, Alex learns that the past cannot indeed be changed.  He now knows his only hope in finding a way to change the past, is to travel into the future where knowledge is at a higher level.

Only planning to travel a few hundred years ahead, Alex inadvertently slips 800,000 years into the future.  The world still exists but is somewhat different and less advanced than the world he left behind.  So just what has happened?  He comes across a new race of humans which help provide the answers but they are being pursued by a subspecies of humans who now live below the surface...

For those unaware, The Time Machine is a famous book written by science fiction specialist H.G. Wells in 1895.  His other renowned works include The Island Of Dr. Moreau, The Invisible Man and The War Of The Worlds.  This effort is not the first time his novel has been adapted - it was made into a feature motion picture back in 1960.

The film is directed by Simon Wells, the great grandson of author H.G. Wells but as hard as he tries, the book cannot be given true justice on the big screen.  The concepts explored in the book are fascinating and that same interest translates through the script but there just isn’t enough time in a 90 minute movie to go anywhere.  It’s an unusual comment to make but yes, this film was too short and could have benefited from an additional hour.  Also not helping the film is the truth that director Wells suffered a stress-related breakdown during the final three weeks of shooting and a replacement director, Gore Verbinksi, was called in.

I enjoy the fact that Guy Pearce chooses risky and unconventional material.  He deserves better than this but his persona lifts the film above its substandard screenplay.  His Hollywood resume now includes a healthy listing of critically acclaimed cult films such as Memento, Ravenous and L.A. Confidential.

With any movies involving time travel, I usually make a quip about how I’d love to go back in time and change the fact that this film was ever made.  But since I know now that the past cannot be changed, I’m happy just to go into the future to discover those films that must be seen and those that must be avoided.  Plus, I could make a little gambling profit on the side...