October 11, 2009

Deja Vu: 'Time' Sputters Again at Casa Butler

Ever watch a lousy movie more than once just to see if you were right the first time you saw it?

I did just that the other day with Simon Wells' 2002 muddlepiece The Time Machine. Despite the fact that I hated it after seeing it when it came out and I continued to hate it on subsequent viewings, I decided to view it again with the thought that "hey, it couldn't be as bad as I remembered it, right?"

Right? Wrong.

Never mind that director Wells is the great-grandson of Time Machine author H.G. Wells. Actually, mind that. He really has no excuse.

But would his famous great-grandfather agree?

I'm not so sure about that, though methinks he'd have to quibble with the outrageously tedious back story that seems to have been invented for the sole purpose of stretching out the younger Wells' adaptation of what is a very short but concise book. (This seemingly endless prologue has something to do with the the New York-based protagonist, played lethargically by Guy Pearce, mourning the death of his girlfriend.) And he's probably have a bit of a beef with the depiction of the Eloi as a competent, eloquent race of humans that lives in wicker tree houses designed, seemingly, by migratory Ewoks.

Yeah, uh, that doesn't sound like the story envisioned by old H.G.

Sadly, despite some interesting special effects and production design (the memory of which probably lured me back to this adaptation the other day in the first place), this Time Machine doesn't get past first base. It's not even close in quality to George Pal's 1960 interpretation, which still didn't approach the book in terms of economy and imagination. And the script in Wells' film is just bad. Bad, bad, bad. Watching the Eloi interact with Pearce's Time Traveller is so tiresome that the viewer can't help but wait for the Morlocks to come...and it turns out they're not so interesting anyway. (They kind of look like a cross between Crazy Harry the Muppet and the dragon from The NeverEnding Story.) And then, when Jeremy Irons--playing a white-haired Morlock dictator who seems to have wandered in from the Rivendell set of The Fellowship of the Ring--appears, it's too little, too late (though he remains the best thing in the film, despite the fact that he, like so much else in the movie, is not an invention of the book).

So what did I learn from watching this wretched Time Machine for the umpth time? Well...I learned that sometimes the viewer can be right the first time. I also learned that I should change the channel rather than stick with something I know I'm gonna hate. Gee, I wish I could get those two hours returned to me.

If I could turn back time...

1 comment:

  1. Ah yes, the infamous Time Machine... I'm not really sure they tried with this one. Even as a kid when I liked every movie I didn't care much for this one. Between the invasion of the rubber suit monsters, the cheesy dialogue, and the lack of a middle story arc it just never develops into anything worth watching.

    Jeremy Irons' 2 minutes of screen time remains the only thing worth watching in this entire film.