Published at: Oct. 19, 2000, 8:39 a.m. CST by staff
Hey folks, Harry here to introduce Moriarty's latest jealous fit. This half-blind, gaunt bulimic viagra-allergic remnant of a forgotten era has decided to be uppitty again. Goooood, maybe fueled by a desire to look better in you good folks' eyes will actually inspire him to finish that damn 90's list... but with his memory problems... I understand, he can't remember February 2000, much less 1997. That's why Henchman Mongo had to invent his time machine... just so Moriarty could revisit his past to 'remember' things which he can bubble bubble hack hack forget. NOW... before you get into Moriarty's piece, I really must stress how important it is for you film fans to go buy the George Pal TIME MACHINE dvd. The documentary on the TIME MACHINE and all the stuff on how Bob Burns saved and has reintroduced that amazing physical device into the last 35 years of fandom... well... by god, it's glorious. And now, here's the man that won't be going to the Playboy Mansion.... Moriarty.....
Hey, everyone. "Moriarty" here with some Rumblings From The Lab.
Last Friday night, when I attended the special showing of HALLOWEEN at the Egyptian here in Hollywood, I was lucky enough to meet several regular readers of the site, all of whom were delightful. In talking to them, though, I realized that many people think of Harry and myself as one unit, as two peas in a pod. It’s made me realize that I have somehow become linked to Grande Rojo, and that drives me berserk. I was tormenting Holmes before Harry was even a dirty thought in Father Geek’s head. I have been working on my Evil Master Plan To Rule The World for decades now. I have a vast army of henchmen at my command. Being thought of as the Darth Vader to Knowles’ Grand Moff Tarkin just doesn’t sit well with me.
For one thing, he’s off playing celebrity at the Austin Film Festival tonight. He’s a superstar, or at least he loves living the life of one. And where am I? Here, in the Labs, as I am most nights, making my way through all this material, all these scripts, all so that I can give you guys the sneak peek at various projects that you expect of AICN by this point. And if I’m going to be here, toiling away at this while he goes to the Playboy Mansion for a costume party, then I’m certainly not going to keep handing him the glory on certain projects. No, I think the time has come to reassert myself as the real master of mischief around here.
Take THE TIME MACHINE, for example. I’ve heard Knowles wax on and on about how much he loves the George Pal classic. Like any of 5,000 other films, THE TIME MACHINE is his "very favorite" movie. When we first heard that Dreamworks was going to be remaking the film, I remember how much he blabbed about wanting to read it. Well, I put some of my spies on the case, and when they came up with the 2.22.2000 draft of the script, I knew that Harry would want to be the first one to review it for you all.
That’s why I’ll be discussing it here today. After all, I’m the one who actually keeps a working Time Machine prepped and ready to go here at the Labs. It looks like Simon (THE PRINCE OF EGYPT) Wells is onboard to direct, replacing Brad Siberling, and I’m not sure what to think of that. I’m certainly willing to give Wells a chance. He hasn’t worked in live-action before, but the vocal performances in POE are uniformly solid, and it features what may well be the last great performance from the increasingly Mickey Rourke-ish Val Kilmer. Being new to live-action shouldn’t really be a hindrance to Wells in this case, since there’s so much of this film that will have to be created using CG and other FX tricks. It’s a great world that John Logan’s envisioned for a filmmaker here, and I’m pleased to say that this is more than just another remake. It’s an expansion of everything that’s worked about the story before, and it’s also an original adventure that works on its own terms.
The film’s setting is New York, and we start just before the dawn of the 20th Century. We meet Alexander Hartdegen, a brilliant theoretical mathematician whose dense, often dazzling lectures have put him at odds with the senior staff of his university. He’s a dreamer, a believer in a better age ahead, a hopeless gadget fanatic who knows that science will create a perfect world in the years and centuries to come. He’s also a bit of an eccentric who’s lucky enough to have found a woman who loves him for his oddities, not in spite of them. He proposes to her in a sweet, simple scene that etches in the fine points of their relationship with a sure hand. They’re in Central Park at night, and it’s a lovely romantic moment that is shattered by a robbery attempt that leaves Emma dead. Hartdegen’s life is ruined by his feelings of guilt and remorse and loss, and he plunges himself into turning his theories about the nature of time into practical application.
So it is that he builds the Time Machine. Although Logan doesn’t describe the Machine’s specific design in the script, he drops enough hints that I couldn’t help but picture the one from the Pal picture. I’ve actually had the opportunity to sit in Pal’s machine. My friend Bob is a prop collector, and he’s got the Time Machine in the corner of his amazing basement, plugged in so that when you pull the control lever, the dish spins and the lights blink. I hope Dreamworks is willing to pay whatever licensing rights they have to in order to be able to use that iconic design, or some variation thereof. It would be a great way to give a nod to Pal and his designers. There’s something about that particular incarnation of the Machine that is unforgettable. I’ve seen people use every variation on the idea in movies, and there are a few ("You built a time machine... out of a DeLorean?!") that stand out, but none of them have the elegance and simplicity of Pal’s.
At first, Alexander tries to circumvent Emma’s death, but he learns quickly that fate has other plans. His pain overwhelms him, and he gives up on the past. He decides instead to find a future where he’s beyond pain, beyond heartbreak. He ends up on a ride that Logan renders in wrenching detail, skipping like a stone across the decades. It’s wild stuff, and it’s so immediately visual, so striking, that I feel like I’ve already seen the film. It leaps off the page. There’s a jaw-dropping scene in which the moon, weakened by terraforming, alters its orbit and drops towards Earth. Alexander watches it occur, sees the havoc it wreaks on the world. That’s just one spectacular moment in a script that’s full of them. By the end of his journey, he’s moved almost 800,000 years into the future. The world he finds himself in is unrecognizable, totally alien. He is injured in his journey, and he is taken in by the Eloi, peaceful people who seem to live an idyllic life dedicated entirely to art and simple pleasures. Right away, though, there’s something wrong. There’s no one in the Eloi village over the age of 30.
Are there Morlocks? Oh, yes, my friends... there are Morlocks. Are they bad-ass? Oh, yes, my friends... they are assuredly bad-ass. These are movie monsters that will not be forgotten, nightmares with a purpose. When the true nature of the relationship between the Morlocks and the Eloi is revealed, it’s a genuine surprise. Logan’s not just trying to make a dopey summer SF film here. He’s written something really special that deals with loss and the terrible weight of loss on us, that makes sensational points about how impossible it is to just run from our pain. The fact that the film is also a serious SF adventure is just gravy. HG Welles purists might freak out when they first get wind of the massive changes that have been made to the classic tale, but it’s true to Welles in spirit. In many ways, Alexander is Welles. His optimism, his love of invention, and that odd combination of Victorian stodginess and 20th Century progressiveness are all represented in the script I read.
This one’s still a ways off, so I’m not going to get too specific here. It’s going to be great fun to cover as it progresses from here. I can’t wait to see a Morlock. I can’t wait to see the Eloi towers. I can’t wait to meet Vox or see the moon fall from orbit or visit the lair of the Uber-Morlocks. There are such marvelous sights and sounds and characters that await us if they pull this film off. For SF freaks like me who get tired of the same old thing, THE TIME MACHINE promises to be something vital and exciting and different, and I can’t wait.
Oh, and Knowles... if you’re actually still reading by this point, I have a copy of the script for you. I just don’t ever plan to send it. I want you to suffer the same way I will be this Friday night, when Radiohead plays the Greek and I miss them yet again. As Randy Newman once sang, "I just want you to hurt like I do." Until then...