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.

TIMELINE (2003)

critica-de-timeline-poster

Remember how Jurassic Park was an entertaining and hugely successful movie adapted from a Michael Crichton novel?

Yeah. Keep remembering that.

THE STORY:
Timeline the book is an engaging look at life in 1357 from the viewpoint of time-traveling archaeologists. Timeline the movie is about a bunch of actors who took a two-week swordfighting course and went to go play knights at a Renaissance fair.

Also at a castle, but they must have only had clearance to shoot there for a day or two.

It nabs the most basic plot elements of the book: a note from an archaeologist is found at a medieval dig site, it’s carbon-dated to be hundreds of years old, the company sponsoring the dig totally has time travel, let’s go get him, whee.

Always accept any rescue mission that involves cosplay.

Unfortunately, there are still 90 more minutes of movie after that.

“…”

It’s a race to fill time, thanks to some random wormhole that keeps 1357 and 2003 linked, so at the very least they’ve got a ticking clock element. Also, the boys back at HQ are trying to fix the time platform due to an unfortunate grenade incident.

Hang in there.

Still, whereas the book gives you all sorts of interesting factoids about castle times, all we get here are cheesily generic battles with arrows, axes, and catapults. Maybe that’s your thing. It isn’t mine.

Yawwwn.

THE ACTING:
Oof. I’d like to call it standard action movie schlock acting, but Paul Walker brings down the score considerably. Fun fact: none of his lines actually end in “bro,” your mind is just adding it subconsciously.

How’s it going, royal ugly dudes?

His dad is played by Billy Connolly, but unfortunately, he’s the guy getting rescued, so he doesn’t get as much screentime. Shame, since he’s usually watchable in anything he does.

Or am I thinking of Colm Meaney?

Stock 300 joke.

Gerard Butler’s Scottish accent is only slightly thicker here than when he was king of Sparta.

Frances O’Connor is mousy.

“You want some cheese, bro?” – Paul.

Neal McDonough, famed That Guy and star of the painfully bad time travel movie Ticking Clock, is an employee of the company that owns the time platform and accompanies the archaeologists back to 1357. He’s an expert in time, or combat, or… something? Let’s say he’s the guy with his shit the most together.

Hey, toss in First Contact and you’ve got a Neal McDonough Time Travel Trifecta.

The eccentric rich dude behind the perversion of nature’s laws is played by David Thewlis. He’s more snivel-y than John Hammond and therefore Pure Evil, so naturally he gets his comeuppance.

Just offscreen: a billboard that says, “You’re a poophead!”

THE SPECIAL EFFECTS:
There’s no way around this one… time travel makes you come.

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The special effects part is the lighting, I guess.

OTHER (SPOILERY) STUFF:

  • Time travel rules spoiler, which matters if you want to read the book. My goodness, talk about adaptation failure. So the book has Marek, the guy played by Gerard Butler, stay behind in 1357, because he decides that he’d rather live there. Neat. Later, they find historical evidence of him having lived into his fifties, so hooray, aww, whatever. The book also gets into standard doofy time travel shit about how you can’t rig a baseball game or kill your grandfather because, I don’t know, you suck at stuff, but for the most part, all these signs point to immutable timeline rules, where whatever you did in the past always happened. How do they portray this phenomenon in the movie? Gerard Butler finds a statue with no ear in 2003, gets his ear cut off in 1357, then immediately starts chuckling, “Oh, wow, I’m the statue guy! Wa-hoo! LOL!” instead of screaming, “HOLY FUCK, MY FUCKING EAR! JESUS H. COCKFARTS! FUCK YOU, KNIGHT ASSHOLE! AAAGGGGHHHH!” as blood pours down his neck.

THE “NONE OF THIS MAKES ANY SENSE!” MOMENT:
While the scientist guys are using shitty metaphors about fax machines to explain how time travel works, Paul Walker makes a distinctly Paul Walkeresque face before interrupting with this gem of dude rage:

“Personally, I don’t care about the hows or the whys. What I do care about is my father!

FINAL THOUGHTS:
It’s no secret that I hate swords and sorcery, but truth be told, I’m not the biggest fan of swords in general. Still, even if you get a history-on for all the ting-tings and clang-clangs, I doubt you’re going to enjoy Timeline. The action isn’t memorable, the sets and costumes look cheap, and the characters have been boiled down to puddles of blandness. I’m going to guess this adaptation went bad at the writing stage, because the director is none other than Richard Donner, which… just makes me really sad. The man who gave us The Omen, Superman, The Goonies, Lethal Weapon, and Conspiracy Theory somehow cranked out a medieval time travel story that’s just slightly better than Black Knight.

LATER THIS WEEK:
The Jacket (2005)

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