The Time Machine
dir. Wells
Opens Fri March 8
Various Theaters

Here's a great question to ask someone on the first date: "Would you rather be able to turn invisible, or travel through time?" It's great because you can immediately learn something about that person. For instance, if they'd like to turn invisible, that means they're sneaky and will always be digging into your shit. But! If they choose "time travel," you should really head for the hills, because this person can never be satisfied with the way things are. Oh and it also means they're a sci-fi geek.

In this remake of H.G. Wells' The Time Machine, Alexander Hartdegen (Guy Pearce) has a similar problem. He's definitely a science geek, and is tremendously unsatisfied with his lot in life. However, when his fiancée meets an untimely death, he builds a machine designed to take him back and set things right. That doesn't work. So he travels to the future to answer the age-old question, "Why can't we change the past?"

Naturally, when he arrives--800,000 years later--he learns what any grumpy sci-fi author could have told him: humans have fucked everything up and the world is a big shithole. But what makes this particular world a shithole are the "Morlocks," who are a race of well, I don't know what they are, but they look like a cross between Jack Palance and the monsters from The Dark Crystal. Anyway they're kicking the crap out of peaceful surface dwellers, and Hartdegen must decide to either stay and help, or return to a time when they didn't have indoor toilets.

Now, for the first hour of this movie, you've got a charmer on your hands. It retains the Victorian feel of the novel, and an innocence you won't find in say, a Paul Verhoeven flick. But by the same token, time travel has been explored many times before, and The Time Machine doesn't bring anything new to the table. And, unfortunately, the last half-hour is your standard "chase-fight-bad guy turns to skeleton and then dust" fare, so there isn't a lot to recommend. However, it is a solid matinee or video rental--especially if you're like me, who would always rather save money over time.