Hello, friends in time, and welcome to a regular feature on Cinema 52 where I put my weekly viewing of Back to the Future on hold and watch another movie featuring time travel for comparison. It may not keep me sane, but it will probably always involve one guy shouting, “This doesn’t make any sense!” And that’s good enough for me.

THE TIME MACHINE (2002)

Look at that poster. Look at it. “Where would you go?” The machine doesn’t go anywhere. It’s “when would you go?” And yeah, that’s stupid too, but this is the best tagline they could come up with? “Ooh, we’ll get people who’ve never heard of a time machine thinking about what they’d use it for, yeah!” FUC–

Ugh, I’m sorry. Let’s get this over with.

The Time Machine was a bigger disappointment than The Phantom Menace.

Yeah.

THE STORY:
Let me level with you. I’ve tried to start this section nine times. Everything I hate about this movie is gunning for first place and I’m experiencing the entire film at once. But, okay, let’s try it from the beginning.

Oh, look, a peeing dog machine… AAUUUUGH–

So Guy Pearce IS Alexander Hartdegen, an absent-minded professor character that is entirely original and has never been depicted on the big screen before. After having a conversation with David Philby (Mark Addy) about bowler hats (gripping!), he hurries off to a big date with his beloved Emma (Sienna Guillory), where’s he’s about to propose to her. But oops, they get mugged, she gets shot, and all the H. G. Wells fanboys in the audience wonder what the fuck they just paid for.

So, Morlocks? Or… oh shit, I see where they’re going with this…

Yeah. Fuck genuine scientific curiosity. He builds a time machine so he can save his lady love.

“Ugh, I can barely read these equations from all the LOVE in my eyes!!”

So, yes, the classic Wells story about a journey into the far future that never had any paradoxes is now becoming every other time travel movie ever. And it runs on magic! See, Alexander succeeds in traveling back in time and preventing Emma’s death, but then she dies when a carriage hits her. For you see, if she never dies, Alexander never builds the machine, so the universe is repairing itself or God did it or AAAUUUUGGGHHH.

AAAAAUUUUGGGHHH.

Alright, we’re 25 minutes into this thing, can we go to 802,701 A.D. now?

Yes! Let’s do this.

No! WHERE THE HELL ARE YOU GOING?

Yeah, that’s right, they decided to keep the one thing the original movie pointlessly added and show us a quick glimpse into the not-too-distant future. This time it’s the year 2030, which has a suspicious nineties feel, complete with lame cappuccino jokes. Alexander meets an annoying computer named Vox (Orlando Jones), jumps ahead a few years to discover the moon blew up or some shit, and then travels way way way into the future. Not out of curiosity, but because he bangs his head on part of the machine and falls onto the time lever. Yup.

Wake up! You’re missing all this thrilling bullshit!

Okay, speed run. Spoilers, I guess, but like you care. Alexander meets Mara (Samantha Mumba), who isn’t named Weena, because that would be ridiculous. There’s a Morlock attack, but these are cool Morlocks that bust out of the sand and aren’t blinded by sunlight. Alex goes underground, meets the… ugh, the Über-Morlock (Jeremy Irons), and asks him about time travel. Über-Morlock gives some exposition on how the cool Morlocks were bred for daytime attacks (thanks for covering that plot hole!) and calls Al a bitch for perverting nature with time travel. His response? He shoves his pocket watch into the machine to create a “time bomb” that rapidly ages everything in a non-character-shielded radius to death. He stays in the future forever and I eject this movie faster than the body of H. G. Wells is currently spinning.

Durrr.

And still no giant crabs.

THE ACTING:
You know what Rod Taylor was missing in the 1960 film? ADD.

No time for love! He’s too busy being brilliant in all directions at once!

I can’t fault Guy Pearce for his performance here. The film is so poorly written that his character jumps from scatterbrain to social rebel to emo to action hero too fast to build any sort of believable human being out of the jumble.

The Über-Morlock is ripped straight from Saturday morning cartoons. Jeremy Irons knows this and acts accordingly.

You have no idea.

Orlando Jones is in this movie because of the phrase “Make 7 Up Yours.”

And because he can make this face?

He’s supposed to be comic relief, but he mostly hovers between creepy and annoying as hell. He stares at you coldly, then sings a song! That’s some Silence of the Lambs shit.

Anyone else in this movie either isn’t worth talking about or would rather I not remind the public they were ever here.

THE SPECIAL EFFECTS:
If I have to give this movie one compliment, the scene from the original where everything moves at high speed via stop-motion animation is now given a CGI update, and it’s actually pretty nice.

Enjoy a still frame of what is actually a fairly beautiful sequence.

The Morlock make-up is okay, but when they run or jump, they’re made of terrible computers.

Beep boop beep bullshit.

And whatever this is.

GRAAAAAHHH.

OTHER (SHITTY) STUFF:

  • They moved the setting to America. Compared to everything else that sucks, it really doesn’t bother me.
  • Remember how the original movie completely avoided the language barrier by just having the Eloi speak English? When Alex wakes up in 802,701, Mara speaks a different language. Makes sense! They’ve finally improved over the classic! Then Alex begins talking and she recognizes English as “the stone language,” which she and her people happen to be familiar with and speak perfectly. Bull. Sheet.
  • Apparently the book The Time Machine exists in this universe, as Vox mentions it while Alex is researching time travel. What a coincidence! He also accesses information on the 1960 George Pal film. This is pure idiocy.

“Would you like me to now play the film in its entirety? Scream once for yes.”

  • As if it couldn’t get worse, Vox also mentions a stage musical based on The Time Machine by Andrew Lloyd Webber. Then he and a chorus of hologram Voxes sing a few lines. This scene used to just piss me off the normal amount, but today I discovered that this musical doesn’t exist and somebody actually had to write the song for this movie, which sends me into an extra crispy rage.

Go fuck yourself. The yourself to your left should suffice.

THE “NONE OF THIS MAKES ANY SENSE!” MOMENT:
These temporal confusion scenes are usually a result of paradoxical actions in the past, so we have to look to the beginning of the film for our N.O.T.M.A.S. moment. In the wake of his inability to rescue Emma, Alexander experiences a moment of pain that would be almost poignant if it weren’t based on magic and stupid.

“Why can’t I change it? I could come back a thousand times… see her die a thousand ways…”

FINAL THOUGHTS:
The director, Simon Wells, is the great-grandson of H. G. Wells, the author of the original book. Thanksgiving must be awkward for him.

NEXT WEEK:
Trancers (1985), 13 Going on 30 (2004)

Want more time travel? Head on over to the Time Out archive.