Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: Simon Wells, Gore Verbinski (uncredited)
Stars: Guy Pearce, Jeremy Irons, Orlando Jones, Samantha Mumba.
Like the recent “re-imaginings” of classic films Planet Of The Apes and Get Carter, this updated version of The Time Machine is a completely unnecessary remake that adds little, and ultimately fails to improve on the original. George Pal’s 1960 version of H G Wells’ sci-fi classic won an Oscar for its special effects, although now they seem dated by today’s standards. However, this new special effects laden version is unlikely to win Oscars for its CGI effects or visual style, even though they are impressive and state of the art. It’s just that the technology seems to overwhelm the story rather than serve it!
In an ironic piece of casting, Aussie Guy Pearce (Memento, etc) steps into the role first played by Aussie Rod Taylor in the original. Pearce plays Alex Hartgenden, a 19th century professor who is devastated when his fiancée is killed in a mugging. After four years of intensive research, he invents a time machine and travels back in time to try and prevent the tragedy. But when he learns that he is unable to change the past Alex embarks on a journey into the future.
He eventually ends up in a bleak, post apocalyptic world some 800,000 years in the future, where man’s accidental destruction of the moon has devastated the earth. Mankind has evolved into two races – the gentle humans who live on the surface, and the Morlocs, a tribe of cannibalistic Neanderthals who reside under the surface. Alex falls in love with Eloi (Irish pap star Samantha Mumba), and saves her tribe from the dreaded Morlocs.
This new version of The Time Machine actually sticks pretty close to the original, although there is a darker mood to proceedings. Donald McAlpine’s cinematography is impressive, and the stop motion time lapse sequences are well done. However, there are plenty of gaping holes in the plot that no amount of spectacular visual effects can distract from, and the whole thing is vaguely unsatisfactory and ultimately disappointing. There is also a distinct lack of action here, and the hurried final confrontation with the Morlocs makes little sense.
Ironically, this contemporary version has been directed by Simon Wells (The Prince Of Egypt, etc), the great-grandson of original author H G Wells, although he suffered a breakdown and was replaced midway through the film by an uncredited Gore Verbinski (Mouse Hunt).
In the lead role Pearce lacks conviction as the heroic scientist, and often looks as though he wishes he were elsewhere. Jeremy Irons contributes yet another hammy cameo performance as the fearsome leader of the Morlocs, while Orlando Jones adds a touch of humour as a holographic librarian.