The Time Machine

The Time Machine

USA, 2002. Rated PG-13. 96 minutes.

Cast: Guy Pearce, Samantha Mumba, Mark Addy, Orlando Jones, Jeremy Irons, Phyllida Law, Sienna Guillory, Omero Mumba
Writers: David Duncan, John Logan (based on "The Time Machine" by H.G. Wells)
Original music: Klaus Badelt
Cinematography: Donald McAlpine
Producers: Walter F. Parkes, David Valdes
Director: Simon Wells


Grade: D+ Review by Frances Nicole Rogers

L adies, Alexander Hartdegen (Guy Pearce) is the man of your dreams. By day he's a twittering science genius. At night, he's a twittering, shivering, time-traveling romantic. The best thing about him isn't his genius or perpetually forgetful and nervous nature, but his dedication and ability to think outside the box. When others say time travel is impossible, he works habitually on proving time travel by executing it. And when his fiancée, Emma (Sienna Guillory), dies, does he grieve? Heavens, no! Grieving is for unimaginative men in bowler caps! No, Mr. Hartdegen does what any valiant genius would do. He goes into the past to save his loved one from death!

Guy Pearce as Alexander Hartdegen in The Time Machine

But, alas, his genius plan fails. Emma dies again, and Mr. Hartdegen figures, through his underwritten intellect, that the same result will happen if he tries to save her again. For no reason, and for no motive outside of poorly written instinct, he decides that the key to mastering the past is seeking knowledge in the future. Ah, what lady wouldn't love a genius who knows less about time travel than philosophers, other scientists, science fiction writers, and fans of Harry Potter?

This is irrelevant. He's a genius, and, despite his frail frame, as tough as a diamond. He is abused and bruised not once or twice but thrice by things twice his size. Even his own snazzy time machine tests his physical strength, and, through all that, when he awakes in the middle of a post-Apocalyptic tribal colony, he still doesn't find the answer to his question of how to master time. He only finds a beautiful native girl (pop singer Samantha Mumba) who speaks fluent English.

Interested? Well, the only way you can see Alex is on the screen, for if he existed in real life, the moment he turned to his side he would vanish. He's two dimensional, you see. He has a background and some motives, but all are shallow. How well his lack of dimension suits his environment! A ninety-six minute strip of film; a marvelous looking vessel that Alex sails on through ninety-six short minutes on a sea of fluff. But that boat has nothing holding it together; it floats because it looks good. And so, in a way, does Alex float, because he looks good.

You may be disappointed if you choose to follow Alex to his final destination. You may ask, "Are we there yet?" when you are actually there already. You may wonder how you got there. Alex doesn't care. He chooses not to dwell in the past, nor to ask if he has found the answer to his question, while those joining him on his quest for knowledge have a thousand questions of their own.

There you have him, ladies: Mad Scientist Alexander Hartdegen, the perfect gentleman genius, floating away on his pieced-together ship. If you want him, don't let him get too far! One day he may realize he has never found the answer to his question. It may occur to him what a thin a character he is and how shabby a vessel his Time Machine is, and he may try to go back in time to save himself, only to drown in the sea of fluff and snap like a twig.

Review © October 2003 by AboutFilm.Com and the author.
Images © 2002 Dreamworks Pictures. All rights reserved.

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