Sunday, May 03, 2020

The Time Machine (2002)

Alexander Hartdegen would seem to have it all.  He has a nice house, a job teaching at Columbia University and a girlfriend that’s crazy about him, even if he is absentminded.  He wants to ask Emma to marry him.  Shortly after popping the question, they’re mugged and Emma is killed.  This prompts Alexander to build a time machine to go back and save her.  He makes exactly one attempt to go into the past.  He’s successful in avoiding the mugger, but Emma is still killed.

He instead decides to go into the future to see if there are any answers.  The first few stops show the normal progress.  We build bigger and flashier buildings.  We go to the moon.  But that progress comes at a price.  An accident causes the moon to fracture.  Some people go underground while others stay on Earth’s surface.

Alexander goes forward to the year 802,701.  There, he finds the Eloi, who somehow speak English.  One Eloi, named Mara, cares for him.  As in the book and the 1960 film, the Eloi are ruled by the Morlocks.  Both are descendants of modern-day humans.  After seeing what becomes of the Eloi and Morlocks, Alexander takes it upon himself to destroy the Morlocks and free the Eloi.

This is one of many cases where I’d say the first attempt was better.  In fact, this interpretation was unnecessary and has a few issues.  It doesn’t really improve upon the first movie, nor does it really update it or the book.  It’s more a vehicle for flashy special effects and makeup that doesn’t quite work.

The biggest plot hole is that not only do the Eloi look human, but they’ve managed to keep English alive all these years.  Consider that the human species is about 200,000 years old.  We’ve changed over the millennia.  It doesn’t make sense that we’d retain that form 800,000 years from now.

Modern English is much more recent.  We’re talking centuries.  How is it that the language was preserved for so long?  Why would anyone go through that effort?  Again, look how language has evolved over the centuries.  The Über-Morlock, I get.  It’s said that he was bread for his mental abilities.  It makes sense that he’d be able to pull some sort of mental trick or something.

Another example of sloppy writing is that Alexander sacrifices his time machine to save the Eloi.  He has no way of checking to see if it worked.  He could have gone back in time to get help.  He could have done just about anything else.  How does he know that it worked?  For that matter, how does he know that this is the only group of Morlocks?

In the book and the original movie, the time machine was built to see what becomes of humanity.  By making it a way of saving a loved one, it takes a lot of the academic aspects out of the movie.  The technical aspect is secondary.  It’s just another way to have neat visuals.  The movie almost comes off as some sort of action parody of the book.

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