H. G. Wells The Time Machine is more than just a novella; it played a significant role in science-fiction literature. The term ‘’Time Machine’’ was coin by Wells. The idea of man building a machine to travel through time and space inspired many popular movies, TV shows, novels and comic books. The Time Machine has been adapted many times, but I’m only going to focus on the two feature films.
George Pal directed the first feature, while the novel was adapted to screen by David Duncan. Unlike the book, the protagonist has a name – George (after H. G Wells). The Time Traveller’s motivation for going forward in time differs from the book. The Time Traveller wanted to seek perfect life driven by vast curiosity, but in the 1960’s film, George wants to live in a world without war – this being the driving theme. The best part of this film is obviously the time travel sequence; the photographic time-lapse is wonderfully executed through humor and a sheer moments of terror. No matter what point in history George stops at, war is a continuously present. Our traveller decides to push things to the limit by moving forward to October 12th 802, 701.
This is when the fun sort of peters out and the critic in my awakens to lash it’s tongue in anger. My criticism is with the representation of the Eloi. In the book they’re small childlike creatures who do not speak the English language because that wouldn’t any make sense. In the book, not only does the lack of intelligence frustrate The Time Traveller, the attempt to teach this race anything is damn near impossible due to their lack of concentration. In the film, the Eloi can speak English – how this is possible? I also dislike how the Eloi looks like your average human – Weena is a hot blonde for crying out loud. The novella makes you feel like you just entered an alien world, but in the movie, the Eloi are so human, the illusion of this future falls apart. I do however; love the look of the vicious Morlocks. It’s very close to how I imagined them.
(Sorry gentleman, I belong in the future with hot blondes)
Parts of the story are switched around, but I didn’t mind that. I was surprised that George never bothered to travel even further in time. I wanted to see giant crab-like creatures. Instead, our inventor goes home, says goodbye and returns to 802, 701 to have some Weena. While the 1960’s version has it’s irks, it is a fun flick that’s worth watching.
Let’s move forward in time folks. The year is 2002, and the great grandson of H.G Wells, Simon Wells, decided to make his own adaptation. How bad could it be? I thought. This director is related to the famous writer; maybe some of that creative blood is flowing around inside. John Logan wrote the script; a fine writer I will add (Gladiator, The Aviator, Rango, Hugo and most recently, Skyfall).
Let me introduce you to the time traveller played by Guy Pearce. In this adaptation, the inventor is named Dr. Alexander Hartdegen…um, ok. He doesn’t create the time machine to seek perfect life, or a world without war – he creates it out of love. You see, early on Alex meets up with Emma, the love of his life. Unfortunately, Emma is gunned down in a robbery. This tragic event motivates our Alex to build a time machine, so he may go back to prevent this death; of course he succeeds. The introduction to the time machine is rather lackluster – DISSAPOINTED! Alex stops Emma from being shot, but moments later she is dies differently (which is rather funny). The inventor of time travel can’t figure out why she keeps dying; poor Alex – he can invent something so complex, but yet, he can’t answer a simple question. Alex thinks the machine holds the answer. He hops in, pushes the lever forward, and off he goes.
Alex ends up in 2030, where he pops over to the local library. An impressive, but yet snarky A.I played by Orlando Jones offers our adventurer various books on time travel – including H.G Wells The Time Machine. Now this isn’t simply a quick nod and wink to Wells, there’s two moments during this scene where the book and author are mentioned. What a mind fuck!
Alex pushes onward because the library offers nothing but weird shit that can’t help. The traveller gets knocked out and the lever is knocked forward, where it stops in 802, 701. Hold up! If Alex is knocked out, and the lever is forward, then WHO THE FUCK STOPPED THE MACHINE?
Once again the Eloi can speak English, not only can they speak our language, they are an intelligent race, and many times they even outwit the inventor of time travel. Did Simon have something against his great grandfather? This version doesn’t even include, Weena, but it does have a female that Alex grows close to named Mara. It’s supposed to be the same character but with a name change – why?
The Morlocks take a visual departure, but I dug the look. Don’t get too excited, you see the Morlocks are not the main villains; something called a Über-Morlock is. This master Morlock speaks English, and has telepathic powers…it’s only near the climax of this horrid version of The Time Machine that our pale pal is introduced, only to be killed off in minutes. Character development, who needs it?
At the end of this pissfeast, Alex finally understands why he can’t save Emma. You see, Emma can only be tossed out of harms way if Alex builds the time machine, but if she’s saved, the time machine would not be built in the first place, so her death is inevitable. Our moronic traveller decides to stay in the year 802, 701 so he can help the Eloi or something…I wasn’t paying full attention at this point…oh, I almost forgot. Even with a 800, 671 gap, the A.I somehow survives and expresses depression from being alone. Who on God’s green Earth would invent something like this? And how did this machine survive? It’s okay though, the A.I ends up reading books to the Eloi – Happy endings!
You’d think Simon would have set out to create a film that would best portray his great grandfathers story on screen. Instead, we got something that was a major departure with no heart.
There you have it. A great novella, with one good adaptation.