Posted in: Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on July 26th, 2002
H. G. Wells is often considered the father of science fiction. Tales like The Invisible Man, War of the Worlds, and, of course, The Time Machine, have become classics both in literature and cinematography. The latest version of The Time Machine attempts to satisfy both fans of the George Pal film and readers of the original novel. Having Simon Wells, grandson of the writer, direct the film was no accident. What you end up with is a pretty nice film, but one that might not satisfy fans of the earlier works. The device itself is certainly in homage to the Pal machine. Enough liberties are taken with the story to warrant criticism from the novel’s fans. I rather enjoyed this film for what it was: simply a wonderful time travel story.
Dr. Alexander Hatdegan (Pierce) is about to propose to his girlfriend when tragedy strikes. He uses his genius to construct a time machine in the hope that he can undo his loss. After making a few stops along the way and finding mankind becoming forever hopeless, Hatdegan arrives in a remote future where humans are hunted as food for an underground mutant species of man. Here he comes to several realizations about destiny and decides to rescue the humans in an effort to begin society anew.
The Time Machine has both a DTS and Dolby Digital 5.1 track. There is little difference between them except for some brighter highs and fuller lows. This is one of the best scores I’ve heard in some time. I bought the CD and am very pleased to report that this mix reproduces the score flawlessly. Dialogue is always clear. The ambient sounds are used to wonderful effect, particularly during the more quiet moments when simple and more subtle sounds are far more engaging and realistic. This film is audibly very powerful.
There is an audio commentary from director Simon Wells and Wayne Wahrman. Although it is an enjoyable track, the two spend a large amount of time admiring their own work.Another commentary is provided by the production team and is full of technical jargon and very “wordy”.
The Time Machine is presented in its original theatrical release aspect ratio of 2.35:1. The colors are stunning in some parts of this film and the transfer is true to the palate Wells intended. Various moments in time are represented by differences in shading and color. This artistic flair would be lost without such a faithful reproduction. Blacks are hypnotically deep and realistic. Flesh tones are mostly accurate and I found no film artifacts or scorelines. Grain appears only where it was intended.
All of the features are about 5 minutes long. Creating the Morlocks is a fascinating look at the cool make-up effects and CGI work used by creature mastermind Stan Winston to create the underground mutants in the film; while Building the Time Machine deals with the title device and its machinations.
There is an interesting deleted scene, which I enjoyed. It’s an alternative beginning which might have worked better than the one provided. There are later references made to items lost when this intro was cut. The rest of the disc includes an audio feature about the special effects, trailers, bios, and production notes.
The menus are quite attractive and involved but provide me two complaints. 1. It is not always easy to figure out where everything is. I had trouble locating the alternative intro. 2. A key sequence is given away by the images on the menus which can really be annoying if you have not seen the film before.
Some outlets provide an extra disk which contains the shooting script and more commentary.
The Time Machine was one of the first adult books I ever read, so it is a particularly magical story for me. I was even more excited to learn that the film would be directed by H.G. Wells’ great-grandson, Simon Wells. It turned out to be hell for him. He suffered a nervous breakdown during shooting and left the production for some months. Alternative History has become a sub-genre of science fiction, and this film is all about what attracts us to these stories: “What if?”.