This year I rewatched the 1960 Time Machine (Rod Taylor) for like the 12th time in my life, and for the first time since going to the movie theater with Tony Vahl and Mike Bernstein, I watched the 2002 Time Machine (Guy Pearce). The three of us were happy with the Time Machine remake in 2002 for the following reasons:
- Guy Pearce was coming off Memento, and seemed like a rising star.
- Special effects were updated.
- We got more information about the history of the Morlocks.
- We love time travel theory and stories.
- The destruction of the moon was cool.
The Time Machine did relatively well in the box-office, but critics panned it, and it soon faded. However, I read an article that said The Time Machine 2 is being produced right now for a 2011 Time Machine movie, so I might as well put my thoughts on record.
After rewatching the 2002 Time Machine, I realized how it couldn’t compete with the 1960 version. In fact, when you get right down to it, The Time Machine remake isn’t a very good movie, with a 28% Rotten Tomatoes rating and a 45% fan rating.
Cha-cha-changes. Yeah, I know a film adaptation is allowed to make changes from the novel source material and the 1960 movie- otherwise it would be like the Psycho remake, simply a scene-by-scene remake with new special effects and different actors. That would be dumb. Film from book adaptations that are also reboots of a previous film have a lot of obstacles, and quite frankly I won’t defend reboots since I feel they are a symptom of Hollywood’s lack of originality. For example, the 1960 Time Machine made some changes from H.G. Wells’ novel by making it more of an adventure within a nuclear holocaust subtext, but everyone was okay with that, and the movie actually became the new canon in the minds of the general public. We must accept that a movie adaptation from a novel must have changes, but what are we supposed to accept from a reboot/remake of a movie adaption from a book?
Well, considering that The Time Machine (2002)’s marketing gimmick proclaimed that it was more genuine than the 1960 version increased expectations. It also turned out to be a lie. The 2002 version was not like the H.G. Wells novel or like the 1960 movie. It was a post-2001 Hollywood movie: a boiler plate action thriller romance, but light on the action.
Some changes: the setting changes from England to New York (yet everyone speaks British in NY in 1899?); the Time Traveler’s motivation is completely different: in the new version he lost his love and tries to prevent it, in the classic movie (and book) he is simply an inventor; Über-Morlock (Jeremy Irons sold out) explains all; this time Morlocks are white like in the novel, not blue; the Eloi are now cool natives with some nice homes (James Cameron took note for Avatar) as opposed to the spaced out stagnant Nordic folk; no December 1899 New Year’s Eve theme; The Time Traveler’s name is no longer H. George Wells; it’s Dr. Alexander Hartdegen; the character of David Filby is reduced in significance; George went to to 1917, 1940, 1966, and 80270; Dr. Alexander Hartdege goes to 2030, 2037, 802701, and 635427810; no Weena character.
We also have the very confusing inside joke of having the H.G. Wells novel and the 1960 movie shown and mentioned by the holographic librarian. I would like to just ignore the reference, since it opens up such a can of worms when I think too hard about that continuity, but…it’s there!
Anyway, sci-fi movies are not just about technology and special effects; the greatest sci-movies of all time have a deep message. H.G. Wells’ book was about how technology, science, and education are necessary for humanity”s survival; without them, the human race devolves into dumb fragile dolls on the surface and the mutated middle and lower class will feed upon the upper class. In the 1960 movie, this is shown by George freaking out and forcing the Eloi to REBOOT civlization. The 1960 version also has the Cold War angle and an anti-war message. However in the 2002 version, the message is ANTI-technology. Not only are the Eloi cool, but the message is clearly that technology causes too much trouble (his wife is killed by a gun and then by a car, the lunar colony ruins the moon, God prevents the time machine from preventing destiny, which causes stress, etc.)