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"Thousands of years of building and rebuilding, creating and recreating
so you can let it crumble to dust."
THE TIME MACHINE (1960) (2002)
Bandera España

“Thousands of years of building and rebuilding, creating and recreating so you can let it crumble to dust.”

“A million years of sensitive men dying for their dreams... For what? So you can swim and dance and play.”

“The past of man was a struggle to survive…but there were moments when a few voices spoke and those moments made history.”


By Patric Laneuville Châlons*. Email: plch@tiemposfuturos.es (SUBJECT: CONTACT PATRIC)

 Some verses by José Hierro overwhelm us: “In the end, everything was nothing, although it was everything…” They probably refer to the death of an individual but are perfectly applicable, in addition, to death, the disintegration of the human print. It is terrifying to think that one day all the work, all the culture, all the effort of all our ancestors will turn into dust. The human neglect, the indolence that we have/will have has the same effect as an annihilating asteroid, like that which finished off the dinosaurs. 

Cartel El Tiempo en sus Manos

Time travel is for science fiction writers is what animals are for children: Totally fascinating. Anyone who values themselves should have, at least, one work that tackles journeys into the fourth dimension. Every human being has thought about it at one point but this subspecies racks their brains about it obsessive/compulsively. Herbert George Wells wasn’t the first one, but indeed a pioneer in the modern era in constructing with his pen, in 1895, a “Machine to explore time”, believable to his readers. With a skewed look, chameleon like, if you please, with one eye on the latest discoveries in physics (carried out by, among others, the Dutch physicist Hendrik A. Lorentz, Nobel Prize 1902, rolling out the red carpet for little Albert Einstein and his Theory of Relativity, about to come out of its shell) and with the other eye drawing a future farther away than the 8,000th century; this would be the worst of the possible apocalyptics, because the hell that Dante dreamed about is Disneyland compared to one in which we totally forget about who we were while we devour each other.

The cinematographic version of his 1960 work (Metro Goldwyn Mayer) begins with a dance between different kinds of clocks, in London, in the twilight of the nineteenth century and the Victorian era, introducing the key that will be the epicenter of the whole film: Time. The 2002 version (Warner), extremely inferior (though treated unfairly), also begins with a clock, although it’s located in the New World, New York. Almost at the very beginning each version takes a different path, in the old version a brilliant Rod Taylor/George travels directly towards the future while in the modern version a loony professor, Guy Pearce/Alexander towards the past. Would they cross paths? The first one is motivated by the love for science, by the unknown. “Can man change things that are still to come?” he asks himself. “I don’t care when I was born. I prefer the future” he affirms. The new “traveler”, who has connections, corresponds with an agent from the offices of the Bern Patents, just as little pragmatic as the first (that also “saves him” a diligent reliable person), it’s the love or the loss of it that incites him to submerge himself in the past in order to futilely change the present: He can’t, and with only two “trips” he proves it. Destiny is written according to this version, picking up some Christian theology teachings of predestination or, simply, the beginnings of Aristotelian causality (an anti-paradox, for sure). For this reason, it was said that the second version is undervalued as it explores new possibilities that escape from the previous one, converting it in a compliment. In the first one, the closest to us (in fact, all the initial quotes of this critique belong to this version), doesn’t approach the vision in spite of the fact that Taylor has “all the time in the world”: He’s got enough with the future.  

Rod Taylor

With respect to the atmosphere in both films, it is excellent, with modernist shades (like the greenhouse/laboratory or the very own temporary vehicles), peppered with soundtracks that are more than correct. The Technicolor of the old one has an advantage, as well as having the closest match to today’s Spielberg, a splendid George Pal. For anecdote lovers, the first version and its director/producer, Pal, are explicitly cited in the second, together with the very author of the work, HG Wells, Harlan Elison and Isaac Asimov, and, the Andrew Lloyd Webber soundtrack, speaking of the fiction works that approach the temporary journey. A “photonic” does it, a virtual librarian that places itself, at our judgment, as a brilliant finding of the remake. Except for in comedy films, I can’t remember such a plot pirouette in any film in the history of film. Another curiosity: The second reel was directed by Simon Wells, great-grandson of the author of the book that both were based on.

Hitchcock’s “Rear Window” (1954) seems to be present in both versions, voyeur James Stewart being substituted, who contemplates how the people of his generation evolve in three dimensions, by some temporary travelers that spy from atop their invisible tower to see how the world advances (?) through the fourth. The window in a clothes store is the brilliant thermometer that measures the trends as the decades go by, with the most emphasis being in the 60’s: “I ask myself what women are capable of reaching”. The candles and snails, running! (1st), the sprouting of the flowers, the vegetation and the solar cycles (both), the passing of the geological periods (in both, but surprisingly resolved in the 2nd, DreamWorks taking all the blame) are also indicators of the passing of time, dazzling to the viewer.

In both reels the first temporary travelers raids’ toward the future are frustrating, discouraging: Wars and destruction, the remake introduces the more than questionable variant in the destruction of the Moon, caused by an improper explosion…it falls to pieces…literally. Maybe the analogue effect that Rod Taylor is the protagonist of is the tectonic violence unchained from our excesses, “responding to human violence”. The pre-war tone might respond to the postwar and pre-nuclear (?) climate of the cold war in which it was filmed. The equivalent of the beginnings of the twenty-first century would be the climate change supposedly caused by man? The alarms, the sirens, are the common denominator of all the raids of the future: The human species hasn’t learned anything.     

Rod y la chica del futuro 

Let’s keep moving forward. Ok, does the year 802,701 sound good to you, in the morning? (913,812 in the second one, what’s the difference? 111,111 years more than in the first version, another anecdote). Wells’ bet is totally risky and I recommend to you the Future
Times Magazine
editorial where it’s goes into detail about how complex it is to go into a future so far away; like if you subtract 800,000 years you could tell the same story, right. Humanity has been divided into two subspecies, elois, bucolic, and the fearsome morlocks-“neandertholized”, cannibals. The latter, in spite of their appearance of low intelligence, feed off the first thing possible, without shame, like ants that are perfectly organized, a well-greased machine, literally, that through one door of a conveyer belt there are those who start to brush grey hairs and through another their bones come out. To extrapolate and be politically correct, the eloi and the morlocks would be the rich and poor of this day in age? I don’t know, or care, to tell you the truth. The case is that our travelers, Taylor and Pierce figure out that the human species not only didn’t learn anything new, but forgot everything previously learned. They don’t know what fire is, they don’t know how to read, and they don’t know what the past is. “Does the past exist?” asks the Ursuline Weena, the girl who bats her eyelashes at Rod Taylor (in the remake the Irish singer Samantha Mumba is her homonym). She finds herself with a guy who has traveled in time, more than 800,000 years and whose main concern is how girls wore their hair in the beginning of the twentieth century. This becomes more obvious in the 2002 version, a regimen of feminists would have been outraged, rightfully. The night belongs to the morlocks (1st): Under an architectural aesthetic that we could qualify as “neo-maya”,that sprouts in the middle of a place in the jungle, the docile eloi let themselves be eaten until the hero, come from another time, comes to save them, inside the temples from where one can access the subterranean world. The morlock dead, the anger, cannibalism, and ordeal finished.

Some light and shadow from the second version: The shadows are centered, in our judgement, on Jeremy Irons’ figure, as an actor, as always splendid, but written into the story by force, unnaturally. a kind of Asimovian mule with telepathic powers, telekinetic, the leader of the morlock colony, who strangely doesn’t read Guy Pierce’s thoughts that are destined to both escape from him and finish him off. It’s true that if this subspecies doesn’t have a lot of light, somebody has to govern them so that they submit themselves to the eloi but…I’m not convinced, possibly because it is over dramatic (In fact it was the origins of the excellent British actor on the table). A flash in the middle of that darkness. ”You are the most inevitable result of your own tragedy…and I am the inevitable result of your race”. A few more shadows that I will uncover in the following paragraph, together with those of the first version. The lights, without doubt and as I mentioned before, the virtual librarian, “photonic” synopsis of all human knowledge. “With these fragments I propped up my ruins” cites P.D. James, very depressing”. “Henry James…, let’s see…: -look in the “P” the hologram: “Plato, Proust, Poe, Pinter…Maybe….Hemingway…yes! Julio Verne…” “Imagine how it would be if we remembered everything: I remember the last book that I recommended: “Look Forward, Angel” by Thomas Wolfe.” In the end of the film he is in charge of transmitting culture to that forgetful civilization, starting with the Twain stories, for the children…by the way, the closest literary figure to this character – Photonic- is a click away, the Bertrand Russell of the “Oceans of Io” by Voyager . More than recommendable: essential.

Being my obligation, I should examine the technological/scientific errors of both films under a microscope: What kind of energy impels the time machines through the centuries? Electricity? This is what it seems to be but, through an autonomous generator or the web? In the first version, there seems to be a cut in 1917 in the supply but it remains unresolved how they keep traveling once our civilization is left behind, reduced to dust. They are stopped again in 1966 only six years away from the making of the film: In my town this is called “not getting involved”, the authors being ultra conservative when it comes to drawing up the future. Once Rod Taylor arrives to this remote future we find some anthropological errors that are not shown in the second version: The most resounding one is that the humans are all blond and very pale, and being responsible for such recessive gene characteristics, it isn’t crazy to think that we will all be, in a remote future, dark haired mulattos, as many genetic studies show. By the way, there are no mutations in the eloi, a most arguable question, considering the endogamy of their society and the necessity to adapt to the medium. The linguistic question is scandalous because in one way or another, these humans conserve for almost 8,000 centuries an almost perfect English. I understand that the creators have artistic license to do whatever they please: It’s a movie. Ok, we can accept English as a vehicular language between travellers “aborigines of the future”. With respect to the “set and wardrobe ”, the morlocks in the first version, except for a few spine-chilling sequences, have clumsy hands, in that one can almost see the sewing: “Helooooo, I’m Morlock and today I’m going to show you the difference between anthropophagie and Gourmet cooking.” Nevertheless and thanks to marvelous pixels, the neo-morlocks do totally freak out. They are some kind of Bob Marleys, with their dreadlocks, but with a body of a constipated culturist and a Neanderthal face, reptilian eyes, that jump like felines, and quick noses. The case is that the combination is horrifying. (You can see how everything in the second one isn’t worse than in the first).     


However in the second, they make a few errors, by our judgement, monumental, a consequence of self importance : “What do you mean the Brooklyn Bridge?” Look guys, almost a million years have passed. Do you know that the little bridge will still be there, in the city, the country, that you are indirectly alluding to? One thousand more powerful civilizations will succeed the current empire which makes it ridiculous to think that anything will be left standing. The pyramids are only 4,600 years old and are half destroyed. Something that can’t even be explained is when they “travel” to the year 635,427,810 in the late afternoon and swish! The giant mask is still standing. No comment. On the other hand, it’s true that they contemplate (brilliantly in the second, by the way), the passing of the geologic periods, but a supposed time machine would have to situate itself in the earthly orbit or in a place immune to the physical changes that occur. Ok, let’s not wind ourselves up too much, it’ll seem like we haven’t enjoyed both films, something far from the truth. The last thing was just to bug you a bit. I recommend “The Universe is a Nutshell” by Stephen Hawking, for he who wants to study in depth temporary trips. “Sorry, Hawking”, that’s what you get for being so didactic.  

At the end of both versions, the elois are freed. Who said that monkeys don’t talk because if they did, they would be obligated to work? The eloi have to find their own way although, in return, they can grow old in peace without being in the meat section of the morlock menu, the travelers that freed them assumed that they preferred that change. Seriously, to end, both movies fit – more or less- Wells’ novel, insisting in the novel to praise values, like friendship, loyalty, love and with a special sensitivity in the imbalances in society- in this case materialized in the elois- subjects that always were obsessed about, along with the doubtful survival of the human species. The novel was written in only 15 days, an assignment, and was converted automatically into a milestone in the history of literature. The film adaptations, especially the first one, show the spirit of adventure and iconoclast that exude in the pages of the book

Don Quijote?”, “Love in the Time of Cholera” and “Cosmos”? The Bible, “Hamlet” and the series “Foundation”? The series “In Search of Lost Time”,  “The Odyssey” and “The Shadow of the Wind”? “Memoirs of Hadrian” the series of “The Clan of the Cavernous Bear” and “The National Episodes”? If you had to make a trip through time, ...which three books would you bring? Difficult.   

* Pseudonym of Ramón Galí



* The copyrights of the shots from the movie, posters and trailers belong to their corresponding production companies and distributors.