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"The Time Machine"

WARNER BROS' `The Time Machine" may have sci-fi fans all aflutter but has conscientiously avoided venturing past the tested and approved formula for box office success.

Time travel, which one would expect to encounter , seems almost incidental. The spotlight stays on the protagonist, Alexander Hartdegen (Guy Pearce), whose journey through time serves only to distract the viewer from realising that the story has little to do with the trumpeted machine itself.

The film's most obvious weakness is its lack of credibility. It is decidedly hard to swallow the presumption that any object, let alone a stack of books, can survive untouched and preserved well into the year 999,000,000 and even more incredible is the convenient reappearance of the holographic supercomputer Vox (played by Orlando Jones), who duly satisfies the need for the guardian archetype.

The theoretical possibility of modern English surviving in any semblance of its present form through thousands of years appears not only improbable but ludicrous as well. The rather unpolished treatment of this rather basic assumption is glaring in the script and is sure to have H.G. Wells twitching in his grave.

The childlike, apathetic Eloi of Wells' book is transformed into insightful and creative beings. The sequence of events seems inconsequential throughout the film, as neither of the two premises of the story is addressed. One being, the time traveller's supposed motive for his hobby, i.e., to discover why we can't change the past. And two, why he doesn't pursue that goal at all.The chaotic script (screenplay — John Logan) is a disappointment to fans of fantasy. The film treats the classic tale as a mere story rather than capitalising on the concept itself.

The development of characters is marginal and clichéd. The cut-and-dried version of the Eloi and the Morlocks stops short of hanging `Good' and `Evil' around their necks.

The cinematic portrayal of the futuristic species shows no signs of the Morlocks' intelligence or the social interdependence of the two races, which Wells imagined for them.

All the same, it is this theme of demarcation that buoys the film. The moments of time travel are quite spectacular with the rapidly changing topography and transitions in and out of darkness and light. The beauty and peace of the Eloi is contrasted sharply with the morbid Morlocks and visual treats are aplenty.

Directed by Simon Wells, the holes in the film are made up by its packaging and you might just find yourself having passed the hours and leaving the theatre in good cheer even if you're not too sure what just happened in there.

CHITRA MAHESH

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