R4 . COLOR . 116 mins .
Paramount . PAL
The menu system is cool, especially in the non-default 'modern' look.
On average, I read one book a year, obviously I'm not a prolific reader. My book for 2004 was Michael Crichton's Timeline, an action packed time travel adventure with swords, knights, evil corporate CEO's and a totally incomprehensible ending, but still an entertaining read.
Imagine my excitement to hear that this book was being turned into yet another big budget Hollywood movie, staring Paul "Fasting makes me Furious" Walker and one of my new favourite actors, Billy Connolly (since seeing The Last Samurai, where he was brilliant, if brief).
Imagine my disappointment after spending 2 hours sitting through possibly the worst movie adaptation of a book Iíve seen in quite some time.
Timeline is the latest effort of Director Richard Donner, probably best known for the Lethal Weapon series, Superman, The Goonies and a whole bunch of Television in the 60ís and 70ís. The story revolves around a group of Archaeology students and their professor, working on a site in Dordogne Valley in France where they are working to uncover the ruins of a historically significant 14th century castle. The site is the pride and joy of Professor Edward Johnson (Billy Connolly), aided by assistant professor Andre Marek (Gerard Butler), his son Chris (Paul Walker) and students Kate (Frances O'Connor), Stern (Ethan Embry) and Francois (Rossif Sutherland).
The dig is funded by the International Technology Corporation (ITC), run by Richard Doniger, but when the professor becomes suspicious of the motivations behind the funding he pays Doniger a visit at the New Mexico headquarters of ITC.
The menu system in 1357, complete with filthy peasants and the black plague.
Back at the dig, the students uncover a previously undiscovered cavern and make a disturbing find, a pair of bifocals that could not have possibly been created before the cavern was sealed, along with a handwritten plea for help, dated April 2, 1357, from Professor Johnson!
Timeline suffers from the usual problems of converting a quite lengthy book to film, the usual problem being that the end result bares little resemblance to the original work. While the basic elements are all there the completely unnecessary changes in some plot elements, for example, the whole time travel concept was completely different, for convenience of exposition, only served to further confuse the story.
I wish they'd used this on the final print of the film.
The plot development, especially early on, seems very rushed, I suppose they were trying to squeeze in all the medieval action but even when we get there it all seems like weíre just going through the motions. The acting is wooden (even from Connelly) and forced, Paul Walker should stick to fast cars and women, even Frances OíConnor (who I thought was great in A.I.) seems to be spitting her lines out just hoping the whole thing will be over as quickly as possible.
The book was far from perfect and the motivations of the main characters and consequences of actions sometimes made little sense. Perhaps director Richard Donner made the changes in an attempt to clarify these ambiguities? I donít think he succeeded.
Presented in 16:9 anamorphic widescreen, enhanced for widescreen TVís the transfer is excellent. The only fault I could find with the video transfer was that the shadows tended to lose detail, particularly obvious on peopleís faces, looking a little too black in places when there should have been features. This could have been a result of the darkened settings but it also occurred in well it scenes.
Audio wise, you have the choice of either English Dolby Digital 5.1 and French Dolby Digital 5.1, an appropriate choice given the subject matter. The audio content is well done and particularly good during the siege of the castle, with the arrows flying and trebuchet being shot into castle walls the surrounds and subwoofer get a good work out. I had some trouble picking out the dialog during the opening scenes of the movie (this may have been a deliberate style thing) but this soon cleared up and all spoken parts were distinct and clear.
This rental release of Timelines features an animated 16:9 menu system with a unique feature where you can switch the menu style from medieval to modern by selecting the dial in the middle of the screen, this is about the coolest thing on the disc, movie included.
Also included are a number of special features:
Journey Through Timeline
Journey Through Timeline is a behind the scenes documentary with a mixture of casual cast and crew interviews on the set and on location along with descriptions of the shooting process both on sets and on location. This documentary shows a lot of the cast and crew joking around and having fun on the set, itís all too rare to see this sort of thing in the extras of DVDís and Iíd like to see more of it.
The Textures of Timeline
Just as it sounds, this extra shows a lot of behind the scenes content discussing the costume design of the movie, including both normal clothing and medieval armour as well as weapons and other various historical based props and set designs. Included also is quote an in depth discussion of the process involved in scoring the movie.
Theatrical Trailer #1 and Theatrical Trailer #2
Both trailers are shown in 4:3 non anamorphic mode, each showing a different aspect of the movie, one a more high tech aspect and the other a more gritty historical feel.
With all the negatives, I canít fault the DVD presentation of Timeline, both the video and audio are perfect, there are a decent selection of special features and the menu system is a breath of fresh air, but when the movie is such a stinker does it really matter?