Groovers & Mobsters Present: Time Travel Movies – TIMELINE

Groovers & Mobsters event is upon as again and this time it’s all about Time Travel Movies!

This blog-a-thon was started by Heather from Movie Mobsters and Andy from Fandango Groovers where various bloggers join them in exploring a select genre in the only way we know how, talking about our favorite movies. This is the second time I join on the fun, the first one was about one of my favorite Bond movies, and I picked The Living Daylights.

My pick is an underrated film called TIMELINE (2003), I posted a shorter version on the Groovers & Mobster’s post, so this is my full review:

All right so perhaps I enjoy this movie more than I would otherwise because of Gerard Butler’s involvement, but the time travel aspect of it is intriguing. I mean, imagine what you’d do if for some reason you find yourself stuck in the Medieval era and stripped off of every single ‘modern’ item we now take for granted day in and day out.

Well, that is what happens to a group of archaeological students working on a dig at a castle in Castlegard, France when they suddenly received a message from their missing professor. It turns out the message was dated 600 years prior, and sure enough, somehow the professor had become trapped in the 14th century. Turns out that Prof. Johnston had been on a time-traveling mission for the company that fund the dig, a dubious company called the ITC. How does the time travel work? Well, it’s done through a ‘3D fax machine’ technology (yep, that is what they call their time machine) which happened to open up a wormhole directly to the year 1357. So with the help of a few Marines, the group now has to go and retrieve the professor, and they must survive the warring regions of the era and return back to 2003 safely.

As if that’s not a crazy enough idea, Johnston had to be stuck right in the midst of bloodiest battle between French vs. English. The adventure begins as soon as they step on the soil of Medieval France and it doesn’t take long before peril strikes the group as they’re suddenly attacked by a group of horsemen that resulted in an explosion destroying the chamber which is their ‘bridge’ that transport them between the two timelines.

It’s based on Michael Crichton’s novel of the same name, what makes the story unique is the mix between futuristic elements and Middle Ages setting. As with a lot of time travel movies though, the concept is often better than the execution. If we were to nitpick, there are internal logic and inconsistency issues with the plot about whether the past/history can or cannot be altered. The romantic plot between André Marek and Lady Claire that transcend chronological time has been the subject of quibbles about this movie, such as what this reviewer said on a blog aptly named Chronological Snobbery.

But y’know, if you’re willing to suspend your disbelief and not over-analyze every single little thing, this movie is pretty good fun. It’s pretty fast-paced with a good amount of chase and battle scenes to keep action fans happy, with an endearing romance thrown in for good measure. The setting is also beautifully-filmed by acclaimed cinematographer Caleb Dechanel (The Patriot, The Passion of the Christ).

The movie was apparently plagued with all kinds of problems, from script rewrites all the way to finding a shooting location (per IGN Movies). But the biggest issue was of course, adapting the 500-page book into a two-hour movie, which is a daunting task for any director to tackle. I haven’t read the book so I can’t say if it lives up to that, but I think Donner did a decent job making it entertaining. He also created a believable look for the Medieval era without using too much CGI. In fact, he’s said to have built a real medieval castle for much of the battle scenes and the action scenes seemed pretty authentic to me. The night battle scenes with the volley of fiery arrows is pretty impressive. Not quite in the same league as LOTR’s Helms Deep battle in the night storm, but it felt believable enough, and the ending of the final battle is central to the romance I spoke of above.

Apart from Paul Walker, I quite like the cast. I don’t care that he got top billing for this movie (coming off of The Fast & the Furious fame), but he’s just not a convincing lead and he comes off really whiny. You know I’m a big fan of Gerry Butler, but when I saw this movie I actually had no idea who he was. It was after I saw The Phantom of the Opera a couple of years later that I realized the Phantom was actually played by the same actor in the role of André Marek! Butler’s portrayal of Marek is the highlight of the movie for me, he gets to keep his Scottish brogue here which is always a plus, and Marek’s romance with Lady Claire (Anna Friel) definitely appealed to the hopeless romantic in me. The rest of the cast turn in pretty decent performance as well, Frances O’Connor (Mansfield Park) as Johnson’s favorite student Kate, David Thewlis as ITC’s exec, and Michael Sheen as the villainous Lord Oliver. Billy Connolly as Prof. Johnson is perhaps underused a bit and it’s hard to imagine him as Paul Walker’s dad.

So yeah, it’s really not as bad as the critics make it out to be. This movie is worth a rental if you like time travel sci-fis or movies about archaeology.

Check out the trailer if you’re interested:

Vodpod videos no longer available.


Do you like time travel movies? If you’ve seen this one, let me know what you think.

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21 thoughts on “Groovers & Mobsters Present: Time Travel Movies – TIMELINE

  1. That looks really corny… but fun 🙂 I think time travel is a motif that has endless possibilities for movies. As soon as you take a group of characters out of their own time, all bets are off. It never gets tired. Can’t help thinking of Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure when I watch this. Stargate was another of my favourites when I was younger and I’d love to see Time Bandits again now that Scott has reminded me of it in his post. Thank you for this Ruth.

    1. Ahah, yes it’s corny at times, but I still enjoy it. Like you said, the concept alone is intriguing to me and [most of] the cast helps make it enjoyable. Y’know I’ve only seen bits and pieces of Bill & Ted, I should rent that one of these days. I know my hubby likes it.

  2. I have both see the movie and read the book,I read the book first. I don’t quite remember because it has been years ago…but I do remember that the characters inn the movie didn’t as I expected it to be…they just didn’t live up to the characters in the book.

    …and I haven’t noticed Gerry yet..hehe I noticed him the first time in PS I Love You

    1. I haven’t read it but I’d imagine the book is better as with 500+ pages, the author could get into more detail about the characters. I heard that Donner changed quite a few things about the plot too, which probably upset fans of the book.

  3. Ted S.

    Wow I totally forgot about this movie, I never seen it but remember it was supposed to be this big tent pole picture for Paramount but it tanked so bad at the box office. I used to read a lot of Michael Crichton’s novels but never read this one. I might give the movie a rent one of these days, I do like the concept of the film.

    I think this was the last film that Richard Donner directed that has a huge budget, he hasn’t done anything this big since.

    1. The concept is interesting, though arguably the execution could be better and certainly I’d like it more if they had a different lead actor. But really, you could do a lot worse.

  4. Haven’t seen that one. Checked it out on Rotten Tomatoes. Yikes. The critics gave it a 12% although the audience liked much better at 51%. Nice cast. Frances O’Conner is just so cute… unless you saw her first in the Australian Kiss or Kill like I did.

    Some of my favs are Primer (as you can see in one of my previous posts),
    12 Monkeys, Time Bandits (big Gilliam Fan), Donnie Darko, and Groundhog Day.

    I want to point out a little known movie called The Navigator: A Medieval Odyssey. It was from New Zealand’s Vincent Ward who directed What Dreams May Come. It’s about 14th century English villagers stricken with the Black Plague who are trying to dig through the Earth to find a cure and end up coming come out the other side in the 20th century. If you can’t find it (long out of print) look on You Tube for it in it’s entirety. For serious film buffs. Can’t say I’ve ever seen anything like it.

    http://vincentwardfilms.com/films/the-navigator/trailer-clips/

    Recently Source Code was pretty good. Bowie’s kid strikes again. Can’t wait to see more from him.

    Dave

    1. Yep, the critics ripped this to shreds, but then again, I don’t always agree w/ everything the critics love.

      I’ve never heard of The Navigator, the trailer is intriguing but on the peculiar side, kinda like Beowulf & Grendel which is doesn’t exactly have a mass appeal.

      Source Code is a good one indeed. Is it really time travel though? Yeah, Bowie’s kid definitely got talent. I still need to watch Moon.

      1. Yeah, Source Code is certainly time travel. Just like Groundhog Day. ***POSSIBLE SPOILER*** They keep sending him forward in time to the same 8 minutes to investigate and prevent the event that hadn’t happened yet. Also anything he did in those 8 minutes had a butterfly effect on the future like any other time travel movie. Right?

        1. Yeah I suppose you can call it that, it’s a rather unconventional time travel story but a good one. I really like Vera Farmiga in this one, but all around it was well-acted.

  5. HAHA I remember seeing this in the Cinema whilst in NZ. I think I actually enjoyed it quite a bit. BUt I am not positive!

    I remember it being the first time I had noticed your boyfriend in a film!!

    Great to see you taking part in this event my BFF!!

    1. You saw this in New Zealand?? Cool! He..he.. he wasn’t my ‘boyfriend’ at the time as I hadn’t heard of him, but he certainly was memorable 😀

  6. Hi, Ruth and company:

    Completely missed ‘Timeline’ when it first came out. May have to catch it on DVD. Denzel Washington’s recent ‘Deja Vu’ kind of put a kink in the Time Travel genre. So I’ll have to look backward to proceed.

    Surprised that no one has mentioned ‘Trancers’. So I will.

    A surprisingly tight, low budget gem about murders in the past that wreak havoc on the movers and shakers of a ravaged, post San Andreas earthquake, future L.A.

    Featuring a gruff and grizzled Tim Thomerson (Who was made for the role and performs some of his best work!) and a young and lovely Helen Hunt. The film spawned an admirable franchise, but stick with the original.

    1. It’s worth a rent, Jack, really it’s not as horrible as the critics think. I recommend it if you like time travel movies.

      I hadn’t heard of ‘Trancers’, thanks for the tidbit as always!

  7. PrairieGirl

    In general, I do like time travel movies: Somewhere in Time, Back to the Future, Life on Mars (I know, this was TV, but even though it wasn’t popular, it was probably the epic of time travel ;-D).

    I love Timeline, and stumbled on it on TV one lazy weekday afternoon when I fell just under the weather enough to call in sick. As soon as I saw GB listed in the credits, I realized I was in for a treat, and I’d love to see this again sometime on DVD (hint, hint, if anyone out there reading this has Flixy’s Timeline DVD, please return it to her!)

    1. Oooh I LOVE Life on Mars, Jason O’Mara [swoon] 😀 As you know I LOVE Somewhere in Time!

      What a treat indeed, Becky, I definitely would not switch the channel if I see this playing on TV. Bummer I couldn’t find my DVD to capture some Andre Marek clips!! 😦

  8. Oh the premise of the movie sound interesting! The presence of Paul Walker is worrisome and probably why I’ve never heard of this movie but I shall give it a look.

    1. Well, Paul Walker is my biggest quibble about this movie, but overall it’s worth a rent Castor. I know you like time travel movies, so you should get some enjoyment out of this one.

    2. Ted S.

      Back in the late 90s and early 2000s, Hollywood tried to push Paul Walker to be next big leading man and this film was supposed to be his break through film. Unfortunately (or fortunately for people who doesn’t care for Walker) it tanked and of course we all know Walker can’t act at all. Ha ha.

  9. I’m a big fan of time travel movies and I generally find something to enjoy in each of them. But i did find Timeline to be very forgettable. I saw it a long time ago and maybe it is time for another viewing but I’m guessing the fact I’ve pretty much forgotten about it sums up my feelings about its overall quality. Perhaps my problem is Paul Walker – can’t stand the guy (apart from in Road Kill).

    1. Blame it on Walker, he’s utterly terrible and I think Donner’s biggest mistake is casting him as the lead. If it weren’t for the other cast (esp. Butler) I’d probably not even gonna pick this film for this blogathon.

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