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:

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