The downside is, the future is bleak. The upside is, bleak is a long way from now.
"The Time Machine" is an adaptation of the novel by H. G. Wells where time is a function of machine, and "backward" and "forward" are no longer resigned to the lexicon of the pavement pedestrian.
Alexander Hartdegen (Guy Pearce) is a renowned, if somewhat eccentric American scientist of the early 20th century, whose invention is propelled into test drive by the accidental murder of his fiancé, Emma. He travels back in time to avert the incident, but witnesses her repeated death in another setting. He then decides that the future will hold enlightenment, and travels to when the streets are no longer paved with gold, but with gum, and inventions are as ordinary as flying bicycles. This is 2030. He explores, isn't excited and fast forwards to when the moon has started to crack and apocalypse has arrived.
Far ahead in time, Earth has evolved the second time round and now supports two races: the Eloi, primitive earthlings and the Morlocks, a horror hybrid of man and monster. He learns soon enough of the marauding mobs of the underground Morlocks who hunt the Eloi for food. In a bid to save Mara, an Eloi woman, from one such ravenous riot, he daringly ventures into their subterranean homes and helps to destroy the murderous Morlocks.
Like an Indiana Jones remake, this has enough fuel to take you into the future, but that's when the past becomes more appealing. Animating the most fantastic of all those mathematical muses, "The Time Machine" is a film that does exactly what its title implies - it travels round the clock, but a creative storyline vivifies the experience with fine-tuned details of each new existence. This is the film's chief credit - provocative imagery that lends enormously to the story, overriding the watery plot.
Guy Pearce emotes enough and with precision, though he'd blacken his record by occasions of overindulgence in role-playing. Samantha Mumba was obviously selected for her earthy exterior, though her performance is worse than her vocal pirouettes. Villains are created out of primeval freaks and contribute largely to the latter half's lurid quality. The film speeds ahead of the tale and the hurried sequence of events is a rush of visuals, giving you little time to work out the details.This article was first published on 25 Aug 2002.