The Time Machine

Directed by Simon Wells. USA. 2002.

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Everyone has their memories of junior high school. For some it’s their first dance. For others it’s a favourite class. For me, it’s my seventh grade band teacher; the most organized man I have ever known. I remember him being extremely annoyed at one particular Christmas concert rehearsal. According to him the percussionist wasn’t paying enough attention. We were practicing “Jingle Bells,” and the drummer would bring us in at a nice snappy pace. Then he would sloooooooooow down to an exhausted David Carradine tempo. Then he would speed way up, so that if you were to sing along it would sound like "JingleallthewayOhwhatfunitistorideonaonehorseopensleighHEY!. That band teacher taught me that a steady pace is important to music. Some twenty years of film going has taught me that the same is true of movies. Perhaps The Time Machine director Simon Wells could use a drum lesson. (Though he’s lacking in precious little else.)

The Time Machine (based on HG Wells’ novel of the same name) is the story Columbia University physics professor, Alexander Cartegen. One night, after proposing to his girlfriend, she is killed in a mugging gone awry. The brilliant mathematician deduces that the only way to mend his broken heart is to put his intellect to use creating a time machine to travel back in time, and save his beloved’s life. 

The Time Machine. All Rights Reserved.Guy Pearce (Memento, Ravenous) stars as Alexander, and per normal is excellent. His bumbling teacher is so endearing that he makes the movie more charming by his presence in it, his moments of bravery are that much more heart pounding.

Mark Addy (The Full Monty, A Knight’s Tale) plays Alexander’s best friend and fellow teacher David Philby. Addy creates a unique character here as all to often in adventure films, the best friend turns into the one-dimensional sidekick, and Addy doesn’t allow that to happen. Although at times you get the feeling that Philby is in a constant state of bewilderment over Alexander’s behaviour and intellect, he muddles through, trying to be the best friend that he can. A nice job.

Samantha Mumba, in her cinematic debut plays Mora; a teacher from a future society that Alexander reaches. She does surprisingly well. The last time that I remember being this impressed with a singer turned actress, is with Jennifer Lopez’ turn in “Out of Sight.” Mumba has a gentle innocence about her that is quite charming. 

I have two major criticism’s of The Time Machine:

1) Considering the amazing source material they had to pull from it boggles my brain why more of it wasn’t used. If the cinema going public can suffer through 2 ½ (But feels like 187) hours of Waterworld we can certainly be more than capable of enjoying an extra thirty minutes of set up, on maybe the construction of the machine itself, or more detail spent on Alexander’s various stops through the future. 

2) The pace. It’s not at all even. This film starts out in a whirlwind of gorgeous sets, beautiful scenery, new characters, Oscar worthy costumes, and then for no real reason slows to a standstill. Then it speeds up, then slows down again. Imagine being on a roller coaster where the brakes keep slamming on in the loop-de-loop and you’ll have the last thirty minutes. 

That having been said I did enjoy this movie immensely. Director Simon Wells has done an above average job with his first stint at the helm. The amount of detail he’s poured into every detail of bits like an 1899 outdoor skating rink is amazing. But even that pales in comparison to the jaw dropping CGI rapid aging effects utilized for Alexander’s environment while he’s voyaging through the ages. If a bit more attention had been paid to the script, and pacing it would have put The Time Machine up there with Raiders of the Lost Ark for pure comic adventure.

It’s still one of the most fun movies I’ve seen in a long time, and I heartily recommend it to everyone.

Jen Johnston
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