8 March 2002 | Kirasjeri
GOOD, ENTERTAINING FUN - but the 1960 Version is Still Tops
This version of the H.G. Wells classic is quite different from the wonderful 1960 movie starring Rod Taylor. As such, it remains entertaining but is rather more superficial. Nonetheless, I enjoyed it. This one is set in Manhattan instead of London, and the Wintry scenes of New York a century ago were nicely done.
Instead of bemoaning the current dismal state of the world as in the 1960 version, our current hero, well-played by Guy Pearce, seeks to go back in time to prevent the untimely death of his beloved fiance. When he discovers this is impossible, he seeks resolution in the future. The special effects of course are good as he moves into that future, although the Geologic changes depicted could never have occurred in less than tens of millions of years.
In the future, 800,000 from his present, following a calamity involving the destruction of much of the moon that nearly destroyed Earth (that in lieu of the nuclear holocaust in the 1960 version) he discovers the Eloi, now cliff-dwellers, who are indeed still there, although now instead of looking like blonde blue-eyed Aryans they are a nice Politically Correct cafe au lait color. Curiously, there seems to have been no change or improvement in this species despite those 800,000 years - evolution has apparently ceased. But that was how it was with the 1960 film; in fact, this type of Eloi is more intelligent and active-minded than the nearly brain-dulled zombies Rod Taylor discovered. They must have been more intelligent as they somehow got the steel handcuffs off our hero that had been placed there in the earlier scene in the past.
This version is far kinder to the Eloi: our hero never feels rage at how they squandered the knowledge and history of civilization. Yes, books have crumbled, but there is a photonic human-like computer device, a remnant of the New York Public Library which contains every shred of information ever collected. How its power source remains up and running in a Stone Age world is never explained. "Self-contained power", perhaps?!
The evil Morlocks are still around, and have evolved, but instead of menacingly appearing at night, or sounding sirens resulting in the Eloi marching catatonic and transfixed to their cannibalistic doom, the Morlocks now attack in broad daylight - and they are very muscular and athletic. In fact, we discover that those are just one type of Morlock - others include those who have emphasized their intellectual development instead of brawn, and Jeremy Irons does a great job as the spooky albino-like head Morlock, the "uber-Morlock". The scary hidden menace of night, in the Taylor version, in the world of the Eloi is missing from this film, unfortunately.
Our hero's final battle was quite different from the other versions, and featured an altering of the future/present I still don't entirely understand. But it was compelling and dramatic.
I missed the thoughtful tone of the 1960 film in which Taylor (as "George") discussed Time as a Fourth Dimension, and had a close relationship over the years with his friend Filby, and later his son. The scenes where he stopped his Time Machine inside his old boarded up house seventeen years into the future are, regretably, gone - too slow for today's audience, as perceived by the producers. It all created for me a nostalgic even elegiacal emotion I missed in this movie. The end scene where Taylor returned to bring back "three books" for his life with the Eloi is not in the 2002 film.
The well-known symbolism in the Wells' book, and somewhat in the 1960 version, of an Upper Class feeding off the labor of the Working Class, cannot be seen at all in this current movie. That despite it being ably directed, at least in part, by his great-grandson, Simon Wells.
The performances are generally quite good. Besides the wonderful Mr Irons, Guy Pearce is excellent as Alexander Hartdgen. Samantha Mumba is credible as the the replacement for Yvette Mimieux's Weena - now called Mara. Her actual younger brother plays her film sibling. Although she is an Irish singer, she is also half African, thus satisfying the PC need for the correct complexion. Mark Addy is limited by the script as Filby; in the 1960 version Alan Young was wonderful in that role.
Scenery, sets, art direction, and special effects are all quite good.
This film was entertaining and enjoyable. I just wish it had also been also as thought-provoking for me as the 1960 Rod Taylor version had been. I know comparisons can be invidious, but they can't be helped when remaking a classic. Nonetheless, worth seeing.