Length: 96 minutes
Release Date: March 8, 2002
Directed by: Simon Wells
Genre: Sci-Fi / Adventure / Action
“The Time Machine” is a futuristic thriller based on the novel of the same name written by H.G. Wells. In the film, an inventor named Dr. Alexander Hartdegen creates a time machine to bring his girlfriend back to life after she is murdered. While traveling to the past and then to the future, every move Alexander makes has a larger impact than even he realizes.
“The Time Machine” begins in the year 1899. A young inventor named Alexander is teaching at Columbia University when his girlfriend Emma is killed by a mugger. Struggling through the loss, Alexander dedicates his life to building a time machine so he can travel back in time to change the events that caused Emma’s death. Four years later, he finally completes the invention.
During his first trip in the time machine, Alexander travels back to the days before Emma’s death. He successfully prevents the mugging from happening, but as a result of the changes he makes, Emma is run over and killed in a separate incident. Seeing that changing the past isn’t as easy as he thought, Alexander travels to 2030 where he meets a holographic robot that insists time travel isn’t possible.
After getting no concrete answers, Alexander returns to the time machine and accidentally travels in time to the year 802,701. By then, Earth is nearly uninhabitable after humans destroyed the moon centuries earlier. There are only two groups of people who have survived: Elois, who are descendants of humans, and Morlocks, who are humanoid creatures with telepathic abilities. Alexander soon meets an Eloi woman named Mara, and she helps him orient to the future.
Alexander’s life in the future is suddenly disrupted when the Morlocks capture the time machine – and Mara – in an attempt to change the past. Alexander is forced to choose between the past and the future, and saving Emma or starting a new life with Mara.
One of the most impressive aspects of “The Time Machine” is the different time periods the lead character travels to. The beginning of the film is set in the years following 1899, but the character quickly travels in time all the way to 2030. Director Simon Wells, the great-grandson of the author of the book the film is based on, constructs a very intriguing setting for what the future may look like. The final jump to the year 802,701 is truly impressive. Not many films go so far into the future. The conception of what happens to Earth and humans is very inventive.
The attention to detail makes the time periods all seem plausible. The contrast between the year 2030, when artificial intelligence and technological advancements rule the world, is in stark contrast to the year 802,701, when humans have nearly destroyed the Earth.
The special effects, particularly when it comes to the Morlocks, are very impressive. The Morlocks have a unique appearance caught somewhere between a human and an animal. Animatronic masks are utilized to give these intriguing creatures their unique look. CGI effects are also used to speed up the movements of the Morlocks, making them seem even more inhuman. Another scene, when Alexander stops mid time travel, features perhaps the film’s best use of special effects and is a convincing view of what the process of time travel actually looks like.
While the time changes and heart-stopping special effects keep the audience riveted, the addition of two separate romantic subplots round out the film. Toward the end, Alexander is caught between the past and the future in more ways than time travel. He struggles with letting Emma go and his developing feelings for Mara – the woman he meets in the future.
The ending of the film comes with a very surprising plot twist. The film returns to the original setting shortly after the year 1899. It is then that the effects of Alexander’s time travel are revealed. Since even Alexander fails to see the effects of his actions, the audience is left to ponder whether or not his efforts were worth the consequence.
“The Time Machine” puts an interesting twist on the story contained in the classic sci-fi novel. The basic timeline of events and motivation are the same, yet there are a few changes that make the film all the more interesting to watch. In addition to providing a unique glimpse into the future, as well as the past, “The Time Machine” subtly hints at the importance of taking life one day at a time. For fans of futuristic films, “The Time Machine” is a must-see.
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