What's surprising and delightful about this TIME MACHINE is that it winds up being quite winning anyway. It is charming, it has great non-treacly affection for its characters, an enthusiasm for storytelling and beguiling special effects. We know what's coming, but we're captivated all the same.
Absent-minded young Professor Alexander Hartdegen (Guy Pearce), living in turn-of-the-(19th to 20th)century New York, loves two things: his work and the beautiful Emma (Sienna Guillory). When tragedy strikes the one, he becomes obsessed with the other, eventually building a device that lets him travel into the past. This, alas, does not have the desired effect, and Alex begins to wonder why the past can be altered but not fundamentally changed. In his quest for an answer, Alex travels to 2030, then a bit further and then an accident knocks him 800,000 years beyond, where he finds a very changed world indeed.
The visual effects supervised by Erik Nash of Digital Domain and Scott Squires of ILM have an almost playful grace and lyricism to them they serve the action while functioning as things of beauty in their own right. However, what really propels TIME MACHINE is the conviction of its makers that this is territory worth exploring. Alex is an endearing creation, and as embodied by the excellent Pearce he goes through stages of ignorance, grief, innocence, curiosity and frightened but firm resolve with all the nuances of a fully-formed character. Smaller roles are fleshed out with care as well the unusual information source portrayed with likable erudite loneliness by Orlando Jones, Alex's best friend (Mark Addy) and loyal housekeeper (Phyllida Law) are all given their own complete arcs within the larger piece.
Ultimately, THE TIME MACHINE takes us to places we've been before, but it makes the journey feel new and welcome. We come out feeling happy and entertained, proving that there's a lot to be said for old tricks executed by talented hands.
Reviewed Format: Theatrical Release
Stars: Guy Pearce, Samantha Mumba, Orlando Jones, Mark Addy
Writer: John Logan, based on the novel by H.G. Wells and the screenplay by David Duncan
Director: Simon Wells
Distributor: DreamWorks Pictures