H.G. Wells – The Time Machine (2002) – Where Would You Go?

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Movies have always looked to attract audiences with the thrill of time travel but they usually do not get it right. Most times the plots are so far fetched that they are doomed right from the start and they would need a time machine just to fix what they screwed up to begin with. In this version from 2002 Dreamworks and director Simon Wells,who is the great-grandson of the original author of the book The Time Machine, they seem to get it right. They bring to the screen the charm, the pain and the thrill that H.G. Wells envisioned with a bit of modernness to update it for our time. This is one of the best time travel films to hit the big screen and a fitting remembrance of the author H.G. Wells.

Alexander Hartdegen (Guy Pearce) is a professor at Columbia University in New York City. Science and invention is almost all that he can think about until something reminds him of Emma (Sienna Guillory). When thinking of Emma it distracts him from science and the mechanical almost entirely. He is in love with her and plans to make her his wife, that is till tragedy strikes just moments after proposing to her in Central Park. It is the one pivotal thing that thrusts him into pure invention as he tries to find a way to undo the past. Just days before he is ready to fix what had happened 4 years ago his friend and colleague David Filby (Mark Addy) comes to him to try and make him see the light. He tells him that the past is the past and that he needs to move on with his life. Alexander tells him to come back in a week and he will show him what he has been working on. Then again it is a ploy just to get him out of the house as he knows that everything will be changed and that visit just might not even happen.

Alexander has been spending the last 4 years of his life trying to find a way that he can go back and change the events that have robbed him of his Emma. He is both torn and driven to see his work finished and get the love of his life back. So he shaves, gets dressed in his finest and picks out the watch that Emma gave to him and climbs into his time machine to go and set things right. At first it seems that it is working all like he wants. He makes it to the past before the tragedy and actually shows up early. He can’t believe that it actually worked but he is there and decides to take Emma some place else so what happened can not happen again. He talks with her, sets everything in motion and then she asks him for flowers. He tells her to stay right there and goes to get them, leaving her there at the side of the street in relative safety. Time though has a will of its own and as he is getting flowers tragedy strikes again and takes Emma away from him.

Alexander is totally lost and beside himself and realizes that it doesn’t matter what he does, he could come back a thousand times and watch her die a thousand different ways. He knows that no matter what he does it is always going to end in him loosing the love of his life. It is at that moment that he realizes that he is not going to find what he seeks in the past. The only place he is going to find any answers is in the future so back into his machine he goes in search of his answers. We get to see the passing of time, the building of New York from his time to the present and on. We see the passing of seasons and the different fashions that the woman have worn till now. He watches it all with awe and wonder till he sees a steady electronic sign that tells him “The Future Is Now”. He stops there to take it all in and goes to the library to find answers. There he meets Vox (Orlando Jones), a sarcastic holographic artificial-intelligence librarian at the New York City public library in the year 2030. Hartdegen tries to find out from it why he can’t change the past but Vox just keeps telling him that the past can’t be changed and that time travel is not possible. With the way he says it it seems more of a warning then an actual fact.

Knowing he is not going to get the answers that he seeks he gets back into his contraption and goes forward again only to be jolted back into normal time. Man has done the unthinkable, they have cracked open the moon and pieces of it are starting to fall to earth. Humanity is trying to get into shelters underground to try and save themselves. Alexander gets away from them and as he is starting to plan his escape and explosion knocks him unconscious and causes him to put the time machine into fast forward. During the travel we see how the earth reclaims the city and how the Hudson River turns New York into another Grand Canyon after a global ice age. It is a wonder at all that he was able to slow and stop the time machine. Once it does stop we see that he has went into the future 800,000 years where life is very different indeed. This is the real destination of the film, this is where we see him find his answers from Über-Morlock (Jeremy Irons), a member of the telepathic ruling class of the Morlock world. So much more is found as well as this is where he finds his hearts desire in Mara (Samantha Mumba) and little Kalen (Omero Mumba), both who are Eloi.

Even if this is a loose adaption of the book it is a worthy tribute to one of the fathers or rather great grandfathers of modern science fiction. It is his works and Vern’s that have sparked the imaginations of all and it shows in this film. This is one film that you are going to want to watch again and again and the lessons that it will show us are always going to be relevant past, present and far far into the future no matter where we might find ourselves.

I give this film a Musing review of ★★★★★☆ 

Available on DVD from Amazon