More than a century ago, H.G. Wells wrote The Time Machine, a sci-fi commentary on class struggles, socialism and other philosophic issues of the day. The author’s great-grandson, Simon, has directed a new film adaptation which, while not nearly as ambitious in its cautionary anthropology, is an amusing B-movie à la The Land that Time Forgot—a mindless popcorn flick. Strange locales. Futuristic effects. Scary monsters. Of course, this fast-paced adventure’s PG-13 rating tells parents that it’s not appropriate for the very same 12-year-old boys most likely to be jazzed by it.
There are just a few mild profanities and no sex (a girl wears a see-through, net top). What earned the film its rating are intense encounters with Morlocks, gruesome creatures who hunt humans for food. Dining is mostly implied, but we do see meathooks, skeletal remains, bloodied butcher’s tools and victims being dragged under the sand. Also, an über-Morlock decomposes before viewers’ eyes.
The re-imagined plot is simple. A brilliant scientist (Pearce), desperate to undo the tragic death of his fiancée, invents a time machine in 1903. Fruitless attempts to change the past inspire him to seek answers in the future. After brief stops in 2030 and 2037, he’s hurtled forward 800,000 years where he befriends natives fighting to survive ferocious beasts. Along the way, the movie raises issues of conformity, guilt, and deciding when it’s appropriate to accept one’s fate and when it’s better to fight it. The Time Machine isn’t a great film, but it’s likable, especially for its restraint.