Carolinian – Arts & Entertainment
Issue: 3/18/02

A Moment in Time
By John Silver

Movie: The Time Machine
Starring: Guy Pierce
Now Playing at: The Grande located at 3205 Northline Avenue
For More Info and Show times call 297-0722
Reviewer’s Rating: ** (2 stars out of 5)

You’ll have to excuse the pithiness of this brief review, for as I write this, the gentle breeze of a near-by Savannah beach and warmth we’ve only hoped of feeling in Greensboro beckons me to leave my friend’s apartment and wander. Such are the ups and downs of having an assignment due while on spring break. Ah, but I digress.

We saw The Time Machine yesterday afternoon in one of those wrap-around stadium seated theatres–the kind of thing that usually makes a sub-par movie seem worth while if only for aesthetical reasons. I’d imagine if I had seen this particular flick in a regular, run-of-the-mill theatre I would’ve had even more reservations about the broader aspects of the film. The film too often relies exclusively on special effects sequences (which are amazing) to support the brunt of sub-plots it wades through.

The story begins in typical fashion with our hero Alexander, the physicist/scientist extraordinaire (Guy Pierce) proposing to his lovely young lady, only to see her killed before they can be married. Crushed over this turn of events, Alexander goes into hiding for 4 years, determined to somehow build a time machine so that he can return to that fateful day. When he discovers that he cannot change her death even when he sends himself back in time to that day to change certain events, he sets out on a journey into the future to find out why the past cannot be changed. If the film had stuck to its guns and explored this idea past its simple, obvious conclusion, it would’ve certainly yielded a much more conceptually fulfilling piece than what we get when the narrative begins concerning itself with unnecessary sub-plots.

Surfing from one century to the next, Alexander, still having his question unanswered, accidentally sends himself so far into the future that I thought the universe had imploded and life had started back all over again. But when he wakes up some 800,000 years later, with the moon crumbling and falling to earth, and New York City long gone and replaced with a completely natural landscape, we see an evolved race of homo-sapiens that, conveniently enough, remember English. At this point in time, the human race split into two evolutions: a more closely resembled version of our current selves, and a completely grotesque, mutated race that is more reminiscent of a horse than anything human. Alexander, for whatever reasons, decides to stay in this realm of time to try and help his fellow quasi-humans fight off the demented race of monsters that live underground.

A lot of the scenery in the future village world seems stolen right off the drawing board from Lord of the Rings. This, along with the extensive attention paid to the morphing landscapes as Alexander zips through the years safe in his little bubble, makes the film worth seeing if only to formulate your own ideas about what the movie could’ve potentially been. There are several scenes that are stirring in their implications, in how each landscape we have ever taken a look at is only the way we see it for one brief, fleeting moment in the constant sea of time we’re part of.

I haven’t read the original work by H.G. Wells, but a friend mentioned that the film takes great liberty with many aspects of physics and theory, in that during Wells’ time, much of the scientific theory the film plays around with had not even been envisioned, much less written about. For what it’s worth, I’m glad the ideas were included, if only to save the film from its lack of vision and resolve in other areas.