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  Directed by
  Starring
  Specs
  • Widescreen 2.35:1
  • Dual Layer ( 36:48)
  Languages
  • English: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • French: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • Italian: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  Subtitles
    English, French, Spanish, German, Italian, Dutch, Arabic, Portuguese, English - Hearing Impaired, Italian - Hearing Impaired
  Extras
  • 1 Deleted scenes
  • 3 Theatrical trailer
  • 2 Audio commentary
  • Photo gallery
  • Storyboards
  • 4 Documentaries

The Time Machine (2002)

Warner Bros./Warner Home Video . R4 . COLOR . 92 mins . PG . PAL

  Feature
Contract

There are so many inherent dangers in bringing a classic novel to the screen. It is a brave director indeed who would take on the challenge, especially when a respectable effort already exists. Filmmakers are truly stuck between a rock and a hard place; if they simply re-make the original film, people will ask, "Why bother?". If they stray too far from the original story, people often complain that they haven't been faithful enough. When a filmmaker decides to remake a classic sci-fi film, there is the likelihood that special effects alone will be used to pass it off as a great movie, and this new version of H.G. Wells' classic, The Time Machine, is no exception.

Alexander Hartdegen (Guy Pearce) is a rather geeky science professor who witnesses the murder of his girlfriend, Emma (Sienna Guillory). Distraught, he toils for years building a machine so that he can travel back in time, make some changes and prevent her death. The trouble is, no matter what he does, she dies. Alexander learns that all things are meant to be. Obviously unhappy about this, he searches for an answer to the question, "Why can't you change the past?". In an attempt to find the reason, he travels to the future, and gets caught up in worlds that are very different to the one he left behind. Finally he 'crashes' the machine some 800,000 years in the future, where he encounters our descendents, the gentle Eloi and the nasty Morlocks. Naturally he falls in love with a beautiful, and therefore doomed, Eloi named Mara (Samantha Mumba), and it is only when she is captured by the Morlocks do the answers begin to reveal themselves.

The Time Machine was directed by H. G. Wells' great grandson, and that is about as interesting as this film gets. The only other positive is that it only lasts 92 minutes including the introductory DVD logos and final credits. There are some interesting parallels to the 1960 version, such as the spider building its web in the greenhouse and the shop mannequins across the road, but many of the things that made that version so enjoyable are missing here.

The most obvious shortfall is the characterisation. The actors are not given the time, the dialogue, or the scope to develop their characters, and quite frankly by the end of this I could not have cared less who lived or died. I only prayed that whichever it was, it would all be over quickly. Even the thought of a nasty Jeremy Irons failed to rouse any passion. It is impossible to get involved in a film when you do not care about the characters.

Other serious flaws include the obvious paradoxes in making a film about time travel. These paradoxes are difficult to settle, so I think we can allow some leeway there. What cannot be overlooked in this film, however, are the huge plot holes, continuity errors, and the amazing run of coincidences that make Alexander's job just way too easy. Asking an audience to suspend its disbelief is one thing, but asking them to ignore common sense, logic, major historical inaccuracies, and cliched dialogue is a little too hopeful.

The special effects are really quite good, but we expect that these days. The passing-of-time sequences are quite impressive, as are the sets in both 19th Century New York and the future. The Morlocks look like men running around in latex and rubber (mainly because they mostly are), and despite the effort that went into creating them (as documented in the extras), they fail to scare or revolt the viewer. In fact, I was cheering for them before they even made an appearance such was the boredom induced by the first half of the film.

The acting is acceptable, and Pearce almost manages to eke out the smallest amount of sympathy from the viewer, but this is soon undone when his girlfriend gets killed for the second time. It is just so poorly done that it looks like something from Monty Python or The League of Gentlemen, and I challenge viewers not to laugh out loud. Unintentionally hilarious stuff.

The Time Machine itself apparently cost over $1,000,000 US, yet looks like something from Copperart. Sure it spins, it goes whir, and has lots of lights, but frankly I was more impressed by my neighbour's new lawn mower. After watching the DVD extra you'd think that the creators had made a real time machine the way they carry on about it.

Although the DVD contains a fine number of varied extras that would have been interesting had the film been any good, watching them is like being punished. The Time Machine is a waste of time, talent, and potential. If only H.G. Wells had built a time machine instead of writing about one – we could have been spared this tripe.

  Video
Contract

Wouldn't you know it? Another pile of puke film gets a glorious transfer. The Time Machine is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and is 16:9 enhanced. Right from the start this looks good. Earthy colours have been well used to create a dark and sombre New York winter, and even the stark white snow fails to lift the mood of the film. This is intentional, however. Flesh tones are very accurate, and the few instances of rich colouring bursts out of the screen when compared to the overall muted and earthy palette.

The image is wonderfully sharp and the detailed sets look terrific. The indoor sets such as the Professor's laboratory look fantastic. Shadow detail is remarkably good for a film that relies on darkness to help set the mood.

The black levels are generally good, occasionally looking slightly blue or grey, but these are minor variations. There is no evidence of grain, little to no shimmer, and an almost complete lack of film to video artefacts. Similarly there are no film artefacts to speak of, nor problems with noise. This is a very clear, clean and engaging video image.

Considering this is a single sided disc, the overall image is fantastic. The layer change is placed early at 36:48, between scenes.

  Audio
Contract

A choice of three Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks is offered, being English, French and Italian. Each is clear and well synchronised, at least as far as language dubbing can be synchronised. All make wonderful use of the 5.1 mix, and ambient sounds such as birds and horse carriages are constantly coming at the listener from all parts of the room. The major time travel sequences are not as ear shattering or as wall shaking as I expected, and this works well, for the rest of the film does not rely on great volume and the imbalance would have been too jarring. The low-level sounds are very deep and rich, but not aggressive or overpowering.

All vocals are clear, and while there are many subtitles to choose from (including English for the Hearing-Impaired), most viewers should not need to refer to them.

Good use has been made of separation and panning of sound and the fine music score likewise is quite enveloping and suitably dramatic or subtle. It is one of the few things worth watching the film for.

  Extras
Contract

As mentioned, the number and variety of the extras do provide added incentive to buy or rent, but I still cannot recommend this DVD. My interest levels before watching these extras had taken a battering from the film and listening to two commentaries was just plain uninspiring, but somehow, I managed.

Dean Fulton Deleted Scene: At almost seven minutes, this deleted scene does include a reference or two to later events in the film that should have warranted its inclusion. It is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, is 16:9 enhanced, but the audio is only Dolby digital 2.0. It also includes the full set of subtitles.

Documentaries: The sub-menu allows access to the four documentaries entitled Creating The Morlocks (5:40), Building The Time Machine (5:45), Visual Effects (4:00), and Stunt Co-ordination (0:54). All are in Dolby Digital 2.0, are of varying aspect ratios (some even change within the documentary) and incorporate footage from the film, comments from cast and crew, designers, artists, stuntmen, and SFX people. None are 16:9 enhanced and the pick of the four is the Visual Effects documentary.

Production Design Gallery: This presents 20 stills from the various designers, and illustrates their visions of what was required for the film.

Hunt Scene Animatics: Running over six minutes, this is a mildly interesting look at an early interpretation of what the final hunt scene would look like. It is a series of black and white sketches, featuring sound effects and character voiceovers, though not the voices of the actors that ultimately played the roles. Presented in a non-enhanced 16:9 aspect ratio of 2.35:1.

Trailers: Offering up not one, but three trailers, each gives the film far more credit and promise than it ultimately delivers. All trailers include subtitles and are in Dolby Digital 2.0. The Teaser Trailer at 1:08 minutes is the shortest and features almost nothing other than text graphics and lots of pretty colour in an aspect ratio 1.78:1. The Theatrical Trailer at 2:26 minutes is the longest and is the usual over-blown Hollywood hype-fest with lots of short bursts of action, loud music and a threatening voiceover. The International Trailer is in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1 also and at 1:55 minutes is a just a variation of the Theatrical trailer. All three are 16:9 enhanced.

Commentary 1: The first of two commentaries is provided by director Simon Wells, and editor Wayne Wahrman. They provide an indepth look at such things as directorial style, lighting, continuity, the complexities and limitations of shooting on set and on location, errors and other things to look out for. They also offer a lot of information about small things that I know I missed in the film, things they tried to convey via certain character actions and dialogue. A lot of what they tried to do fell short of being achieved, but their honesty in admitting this is to be respected. One of the more informative commentaries I have listened to.

Commentary 2 The second commentary comes from producer David Valdes, production designer Oliver Scholl and visual effects supervisor James E. Price. Being another cast-only commentary, it covers a lot of the same ground as the first commentary, but is still informative. The three commentators are not quite as in-depth, and there are a few longer pauses than the first commentary. Both commentaries demonstrate an honest affection for the work.

  Overall  
Contract

If films were to be judged only on how they scrub up on DVD, then this would be a winner. Sadly, a superb transfer alone will never be reason enough to recommend a film. The Time Machine joins the ever-growing list of DVD releases that look and sound great, but are as awful and as boring as a film can be. You cannot make a silk purse out of a sow's ear, and you cannot make a great film with a crap script, flawed plot, and flimsy dialogue. Make better use of your time and if you want to watch The Time Machine, seek out the 1960 version.


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      And I quote...
    "If films were to be judged only on how they scrub up on DVD, then this would be a winner..."
    - Terry Kemp
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Akai
    • TV:
          TEAC CT-F803 80cm Super Flat Screen
    • Receiver:
          Pioneer VSX-D409
    • Speakers:
          Wellings
    • Centre Speaker:
          Wellings
    • Surrounds:
          Wellings
    • Subwoofer:
          Sherwood SP 210W
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard RCA
    • Video Cables:
          standard s-video
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