Dorian's Movie Reviews

Is it worth seeing? Reviews are presented with no cynicism, no comparisons, no biased standards, no pretentiousness - every movie is reviewed on its individual entertainment value including technical presentation.  
Scale 1 - 5
The Time Machine
2002, DreamWorks SKG, Warner Brothers
Directed by Simon Wells and Gore Verbinski
Screenplay by John Logan
From a story by H.G. Wells

Dr. Alexander Hartdegen (Guy Pearce) is a distracted professor, but Emma (Sienna Guillory) has somehow managed to catch his eye. Immediately following his touching marriage proposal, they are robbed and his beloved Emma is killed. Alexander is motivated to build a time machine and go back and undo the past. Step ahead in time to back in time, his mission is a failure, and again he is now motivated to resolve the question, "Why can't we change the past." Interesting question that doesn't fit well with current time travel plots, and conflicts with Alexander's ability to travel forward in time and change the future.

The question reflects an important fact that we all must live with every day, yet facts are not our fantasy. Perhaps Well's point was to simply make the point that none of us can change the past - we have to live with it - but we can change the future.

I suppose that criticizing a story by historic science fiction writer and futurist H.G. Wells is not in good taste. This story quickly gets to the plot and the action, which is good. Having said that, from the moment Alexander poses the question, "Why..?" the plot begins changing to a vision of the future and then changes to the need to change a future time. The ending is a Planet Of The Apes type story that isn't bad, but it seems to have little to do with where we came in. Perhaps the future will bring more of these plots that change midstream, and audiences will like it... who knows. The past is the future? Where is my crystal ball?

Not to complain - I felt moderately entertained - all in all the movie is worth seeing, if nothing else for the production. The writing and production are excellent and gets off to a good start. But like many stories of that era the story becomes an exhibit, or perhaps a spectacular, and the plot gets lost in the confusion. A well-done museum exhibit is about as fascinating, I think, to discriminating modern audiences. I think the story itself is better honored for its place in history and left in the past. I suspect the producers will make money on this one, but betting on past performers is not always a sure thing - hm, I seem to have lost my crystal ball.

My comments below attempt to draw attention to things that make a movie good, especially if they made major contributions, and for professional judgments on these various arts, the reader should consult professionals in these arts.

I give this one three spotlights for the story out of a possible five, and would give more for the production:

  • Writing - did a good job bringing Well's story to the screen. Four spotlights.
  • Acting and casting - good acting in good parts.
  • Directing - the scenes flowed well, and the entire production was excellent.
  • Production design - met challenges in multiple time periods, three substantial periods, and was very realistic. Very creative in the futuristic habitat scenes. Five spotlights.
  • Special effects - seamless and awesome. Five spotlights.
  • Editing - action flowed smoothly, captured good action and character reactions, and put together a coherent story.
  • Music - seamless, and complimented the action.
  • Costume design - met challenges in multiple time periods, three substantial periods, and was very realistic. Five spotlights.
  • Choreography of the jungle and cave fight scenes - appropriate to the picture and the characters. Much of this was undoubtedly CGI. Five spotlights.
  • Cinematography - beautiful. Five spotlights.

All elements blended into an excellent production, and my compliments to DreamWorks for bringing a classic to life for modern audiences. It is rated PG-13. Enjoy!

- Dorian


  • 5 Spotlights: The best of movie making, well worth seeing (rarely given)
  • 4 Spotlights: Good movie for the genre; may have minor technical or story problems but they hardly harm the enjoyment; clearly worth seeing; (most movies)
  • 3 Spotlights: Not bad, but has problems - worth seeing
  • 2 Spotlights: Caution - a "B" movie, probably will appeal only to some
  • 1 Spotlight: Caution - not recommended for any audience (will probably never be given)

Note: No half spotlights are given.

My reviews are not based much on my personal taste, or any standard besides entertainment value. I try to be as objective as possible, keeping in mind that entertainment value is very subjective and individualized. If I'm not interested in a movie I usually don't go see it, so it doesn't get reviewed. Each character, and each position in the production company might be highlighted if the contribution affected the enjoyment of the story as either outstanding or dismal and I noticed it, keeping in mind that many contributions are singularly distinguished by their seamless integration with the story, not calling attention to themselves and thereby escaping attention.

- Dorian Scott Cole

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