Dec 18 2009

Article VII – In Which I Go Back In Time and Kill Hitler

Looks like the Second Planet of the Apes...

A Rousing Game of Hide and Seek

Well, faithful followers, another late night, another ON TIME column.  You better be glad I get paid the big bucks for this.  I’ve decided that I need a good name for my readers – kind of like how Marvel has their Zombies and DC has their Fanboys…what do you all want to be called?

Tonight I watched H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine starring some dudes from the sixties.  This 103 minute long adventure science-fiction film is one of the shining examples from that staple of sci-fi: Time Travel.  But more on that later – when we’ve had some…**ahem**…TIME to warm up.  You guys like puns right?  Is that even a pun?

Anyways, this film dramatically starts with The Traveller (Rod Taylor) bursting in on a pleasant evening of brandy and man-talk between his friends, completely dirty and bloody.  He’s a hot mess.  He decides, conveniently, to recap the last week of his life to his friends, starting with the last time they were together when he explained how he had created a Time Machine and sent it into the future.

His foolish (idiot?) friends don’t believe their very eyes and scoff like only old Englishmen can, and leave his house in a huff.  George then decides to show them they can’t scoff at him and get away with it and travels through time to the FUTURE.  Making stops in 1916, 1940, and 1966, he eventually settles on the nice round year of 802,701.  Here he discovers that mankind has regressed into two different races: the Morlocks and the Eloi.  He finds their separate lifestyles offensive and decides (again, as only the British can) to take their reeducation and rehabilitation into his own hands.

Push comes to shove and eventually he makes it back to his own time at the turn of the century, 1899.  After brief speculation as to whether his story is true or not, his friends scoff again, prompting him to wonder why they were his friends in the first place, then leave him to disappear into the Time Stream once more.

Okay, now that you’ve skipped over the plot summary – let me tell you how and what to think of this movie.

Let me start by saying this: I love the premise of the film.  I love it.  I even love the premise of the 2002 version of this film.  BUT THAT’S ALL I LOVE.  When I went back into Netflix to see if I could rent this again, I saw that my rating was a hefty 5 stars.  What is it now?  THREE stars.  Okay, and even those stars are more because it’s based on a premise that still hasn’t been done justice on the big screen.

What didn’t I like about the 1960 version of this?  There’s this strange view in the film that the Time Traveler is looking to find the perfect time period for himself.  This becomes his driving motivation.  Now, we all know this is just a silly idea.  The future holds nothing more than robots and/or nuclear devastation or maybe earthquakes/volcanoes/comets/global warming/tidal waves.  Ummm let’s stick with robots.  He’s trying to find the perfect idyllic time for himself, as the current war in South Africa is bumming him out.

Its no DeLorean

It's no DeLorian

But the movie basically ends when the Traveler finds a time period that  he can mold to fit his own needs (no war, famine, disease, strife, etc.).  Wow, Fil, that sounds reasonable, you might be saying to yourself…if you’re AN IDIOT.  Okay, this guy is setting himself up in a society of childlike creatures as some kind of god.  He is literally going to impose his will on the entirety of human civilization to fit his own ideas of a perfect society.  Also – did I fail to mention that all the inhabitants of this new world have blonde hair and blue eyes?  I’ll let you figure out where I’m going with this.

The overall adventure attitude and sort of wonder of Time Travel is something that, in my opinion, does not fit well with the original story.  Let me give you an example:  the movie ends with a question.  “What three books would you take to restart a civilization?”  This movie…it’s…FOR THE LOVE OF GOD IT’S ASKING US TO THINK.  But not in the good way.

Normally this is an excellent idea.  But this is not the time wasting game of Desert Island.  This is a serious(?) film.

Okay.  What did I like about it?  Being one of the first Time Travel stories, the ideas presented in this are amazing.  Traveling through time, it is said, does not mean you travel through space.  You are only traveling through the 4th dimension.  Very cool.  There are some really nifty special effects involving stop motion and time-lapse camera work that seem to be made for the premise of this film.

Basically, once George reaches the time period with the Eloi and the Morlocks, I became incredibly bored.  There is a little bit in there that bastardizes the original story about how the Morlocks are the descendants of the working class and the Eloi are the descendants of the elite upper class, but even that is not in tact in this film.  Another thing from the story I liked that may not have been avoidable in the film was leaving the main character nameless.  In the story, he is called the Time Traveler.  In the film he is called H.G. Wells.  So clever.

The future of the working class

The future of the working class

The film also leaves out the general feeling of despair that is so omnipresent in the story.  The Morlocks and the Eloi are so far removed from humanity, that the Traveler is only sad to see what the human race has degenerated into: either cannibalistic ape-men, or pretty sheep people.  The Traveler in the novella also goes forward to the end of the Earth, watching Earth’s rotation decay while the Sun goes dim causing the planet to gradually freeze, killing every last living thing on it’s surface.  This is what the future seems to look like.  Isn’t speculative science-fiction wonderful terrifying?

So, reading back, I realize that I bitch a lot about how this movie wasn’t like the story.  In general, I feel like this movie is not a waste of time, by any means (HA another time reference, I think I’m getting the hang of this writing thing) but it definitely is not the best it can be.  Unfortunately, any story where I’m allowing myself to compare a classic Sci-Fi short story or novel and a film based on the same – you’re likely to hear this same viewpoint over and over again.

Does this say anything about the nature of science fiction film?  Instead of giving you some half-assed and moderately funny answer, I’m going to give you a real one: science fiction works better as an ORIGINAL IDEA.  Adaptations work every so often – but honestly, if you can come up with something original – you’re much better off.  I’m looking at YOU, filmmakers, who are probably not reading my column.

Dammit, now that I’ve lost my funny edge, I have no way to end this edition of The Impossible.

How about some Latin for you?

Tempus edax rerum, bitches. registration offices server hosting info .

3 Responses to “Article VII – In Which I Go Back In Time and Kill Hitler”

  • Bonnye Says:

    Call your readers Filbots. Also, I loved this movie as a child, and I hated the remake, but I can imagine how this wouldn’t stand up to me maturing beyond it. I’ll never watch it again and will hold onto my naive memories. Thanks for doing that dirty deed for all of your readers.

  • Anna Garrison Says:

    I rather like how the time machine looks, even if it isn’t as cool as the DeLorian 🙂

  • Rosser Garrison Says:

    Wow! You did seem to be down on this one! I disagree with you but perhaps because as a youngster (yes, I really was one….), I remember being scared out of my Bejabers in 1960 at those Morlocks at the military base (Luke AFB) theater. I also thought that the special effects were first rate (at the time), that the film concluded with a hopeful ending (beginning?). I agree that the mess with “Wee—Na” was a little overdone (how do girls style their hair way back in 1899???) but, that being said, this is one of those fantastic sci-fi films that made an incredible impression on me (I won’t tell you the others…you’ll probably laugh!). So I still give one high marks considering the time (no pun intended) it was made. George Pal was great. Another neat one to see is the 7 Faces of Dr. Lao (1964) which I also thought was very different.

    OK, so we disagree…. But keep those reviews coming!

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