Films: The Time Machine, and Timeline

Films: The Time Machine, and Timeline

Two films with a central theme in common - time travel.

I re-read H G Wells' novel The Time Machine only last year (see review list on the left) and vaguely recall watching the 1960 film version, so when the 2002 film appeared on TV I naturally had to watch it. My first reaction was one of puzzlement; not only was the setting changed from London to New York (par for the course for Hollywood, which seems to find it hard to imagine that anything of interest could ever happen outside the USA) but the first quarter of an hour or so is entirely new, concerning a doomed love affair. It transpires that this is what drives the central character (a physics professor) to develop a time machine, and after some more diversions the story duly arrives 800,000 years in the future, into the world of the Eloi and the Morlocks. Sadly, the devolution of humanity is glossed over, the Eloi shown as normally intelligent rather than stupid, with the cause of humanity's lost civilisation being put down to a man-made physical disaster (the break-up of the Moon) rather than natural evolutionary forces. Also the evocative final section of the book, in which the time traveller visits a dying Earth from which humanity has disappeared, is omitted, to be replaced by a tacked-on and totally nonsensical destroy-the-bad-guys-and-live-happily-ever-after ending. A dumbed-down sketch of a classic novel; Hollywood doing its worst.

I had never heard of Michael Crichton's 1999 novel Timeline and didn't realise that the 2003 film I had just watched was based on this until the credits rolled. So I can't comment on how faithful (or otherwise) the film was to the book. This is probably just as well, otherwise I might have found far more fault with it. As it was, I enjoyed the tale of the team of modern archaeologists using a time-travel machine to visit medieval France at a crucial point in history, in order to rescue one of their colleagues. Much scheming and fighting result as the archaeologists desperately try to return to the present day. Far from serious, but enjoyably entertaining.

If there's one lesson to learn from these two films, it's this: if at all possible, try to see the film before you read the book. You are then more likely to enjoy the film.

(This entry is cross-posted from my science-fiction & fantasy blog.)
The Time Machine (1960), and Time After Time (1979)

Good morning Anthony,

H.G. Wells is one of my favorite authors, I read THE TIME MACHINE when I was a child, it was my first sci-fi novel. I also really like two of the movies it inspired, the 1960 film with Rod Taylor, Alan Young and Sebastian Cabot, and the 1979 movie TIME AFTER TIME with Malcolm McDowell, David Warner and Mary Steenburgen. I can't even count how many times I've rewatched both films.

As for the movie TIMELINE (2003), it was awful and uninteresting for me, it's a shame how most films now-a-days get twisted and altered by companies until the finished movie becomes a mess and is forgotten within a short time. I would like to read the Michael Crichton novel, but I'm still trying to forget the movie I wasted a rental on....argh.
Re: The Time Machine (1960), and Time After Time (1979)

... and the 1979 movie TIME AFTER TIME with Malcolm McDowell, David Warner and Mary Steenburgen. ...
Time After Time from '79 is indeed a nice derivative of The Time Machine story. It also allows for some liberties like the setting being the 1970's San Francisco instead of London and adding in some elements like Jack The Ripper (yes, Jack the Ripper... if you haven't watched the movie yet, go ahead and you'll see that it all makes sense ;)).