My foray into the Sci-Fi Chronicles book continues as we cath up now with the cinematic work inspired by the works of HG Wells. I’ve previously reviewed two of the titles recommended in the book, the 60s version of The Time Machine, and the Nicholas Meyer thriller Time After Time. So it was time to dive into the 21st century retelling of Wells’ classic tale, as put to the screen by his own great-grandson, Simon Wells.
There are a few missteps, right from the off, instead of being driven by the need to explore, obsessed over time and knowledge, the impetus for the Traveller’s (here given the name of Alexander as played by Guy Pearce) journey is one of personal tragedy, which tries to put an unnecessary shadow over the piece and try to give it a more emotional arc, this seems to cripple the characters instead of giving them more depth. In my opinion it doesn’t work, script writer John Logan shouldn’t have messed with the reasoning, and instead heightened the sense of wonder, the need to explore and to understand.
Pearce, as always seems to be the case, turns in a strong performance with what he is given, though the character is a little too nebbish, and doesn’t seem to have the Rod Taylor scientific cool as seen in George Pal’s version. That being said, for the most part, I like the look of the film, the design, the look of the Morlocks, as well as the machine itself, though there is some rather shoddy green screen work in some sequences.
After a couple of quick stops in the 21st century, which allows him to see science and technology go too far, as well as pairing him with a photonic library attendant (Orlando Jones), who can then explain plot points to the audience instead of letting them reason it out like the Traveller did in the original tale, he arrives in the far-flung future where he encounters the Eloi.
The Eloi are a peaceful, cliff-dwelling people, one of whom, Mara (Samantha Mumba) is a teacher, and after countless of thousands upon thousands of years, still speaks English… Here, amongst these peaceful people he is haunted by dreams, and learns that the Eloi are nothing more than sheep for the underground Morlocks. And here lays another problem, moving the Morlocks out into the sun, instead of keeping them in the dark and the people terrified.
Alexander soon comes face to face with the telepathically enhanced Uber-Morlock (Jeremy Irons) and must make a final decision about his and everyone else’s future…
This was a great could have been, if the film had been more faithful to the source material it may have served it better. It sadly lacks the heart and wonder of the 60s film, and is missing the social commentary of the original novel eschewing them for popcorn thrills instead.