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"The Time Machine" Movie Review

Guy Pearce and Sienna Guillory in DreamWorks Pictures' and Warner Bros. Pictures' "The Time Machine."
Photo © 2002 DreamWorks LLC and Warner Bros. - All Rights Reserved.

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The "romance" label doesn't automatically spring to mind when talking about H.G. Wells' classic science fiction novel, "The Time Machine." However in the 2002 big-screen adaptation, the powers that be decided the audience needed to know the reason behind inventor Alexander Hartdegen's (Guy Pearce) fixation with time travel (the Hartdegen name is also unique to this adaptation). This version supplies us with that reason in the form of Alexander's ladylove, Emma (played by Sienna Guillory). On the verge of a "happily ever after" life together, a tragic accident befalls Emma causing her untimely death. Alexander, haunted by her death, asks himself the time traveling "what if" question. He becomes obsessed by the need to go back in time and reverse the events of that dreadful day. After working on his theories of travel through time and space for four years non-stop, Alexander's time machine performs as he envisioned, but without the sought after results. Instead of bringing back his beloved, he's forced to watch her die over again. His desire to bring Emma back to life unfulfilled, Alexander travels into the distant future to find the answer as to why he can't change the past.

"The Time Machine" has some incredible special effects and a cast that, for the most part, tries valiantly to make the story fresh. Unfortunately, the film falls short of the 1960 version. Even with effects that weren't dreamed of in the 60s, this adaptation just doesn't have the oomph to bring it home. The film's beginning segments - featuring the love story between Alexander and Emma - are touching but don't quite cross the bridge to make an emotional connection with the audience (action film lovers will probably wish that portion of the film was left on the cutting room floor). As Emma, English actress Sienna Guillory is a bright spot on the screen. Her scenes, few that they are, are delivered with warmth and elicit warmth in return from an otherwise somewhat detached Guy Pearce. Don't get me wrong, Pearce is a fine actor and his work in films such as "Memento" and "LA Confidential" prove that he's capable of delivering tremendous performances, yet he doesn't seem to be emotionally involved with his time traveling character.

Co-star Samantha Mumba is entirely believable as the Eloi woman Alexander falls for. The fact that Alexander falls too fast for her after obsessing for four years over Emma doesn't sit right with me (maybe as a romantic movie fan I'm over-analyzing the film's love stories). Her real-life younger brother, Omero Mumba, plays her character's little brother in the film. The connection between the two in real-life lends a truth to the relationship presented on the screen. Another co-star, Mark Addy, is unfortunately denied the opportunity for much screen time and his character is only partially developed.

Overall, the film just didn't live up to expectations. Bouncing from love story to sci-fi to yes, even comedy, "The Time Machine" misses its mark and winds up being one of those films where you leave the theatre asking yourself the same question as Guy Pearce's character does - what if?

Overall Grade: C-/D+

"The Time Machine" is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of action violence.

Director: Simon Wells
Executive Producer: Arnold Leibovit
Producers: Walter F. Parkes and David Valdes
Screenplay By: John Logan
Novel By: H G Wells
Director of Photography: Donald M. McAlpine
Production Designer: Oliver Scholl
Film Editor: Wayne Wahrman, A.C.E.
Costume Designer: Deena Appel and Bob Ringwood
Music By: Klaus Badelt
Casting: Mindy Marin
Art Directors: Chris Burian-Mohr, Bruce R. Hill, and Donald Woodruff
Set Decorator: Victor J. Zolfo
Visual Effects Supervisor: James E. Price

Alexander Hartdegen - Guy Pearce
David Philby - Mark Addy
Mrs. Watchit - Phyllida Law
Emma - Sienna Guillory
Vox - Orlando Jones
Mara - Samantha Mumba
Kalen - Omero Mumba
Toren - Yancey Arias
Uber-Morlock - Jeremy Irons

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