Michael Crichton once again adds another empty-headed farce to his relentlessly palpable résumé of mediocrity. Maybe it’s not Crichton’s fault… No. It is. Over the years his novels have always disappointed on character and plot. He borrows interesting theories and adds to them, but when it’s time for the characters to start moving and the plot to start cooking it just gets worse. People will argue that Timeline is nothing like the book. ‘They fucked it all up,’ they’ll say. Well, how do you unfuck up something when it’s already fucked up in the first place?
This movie is structured around the unabashed gimmick of having a medieval adventure with the time travel crap thrown in just for kicks. The problem is that much of it really doesn’t matter, whether it is a time travel movie or not. It could be just another boring medieval goof, but more likely, Crichton just wanted to slam down another movie deal. The sitch is: Some old-ass geezer zips back in time about 600 years because of a fluke wormhole a corporate tech company came across while trying to fax three dimensional objects across the globe. But the geezer in the form of Billy Connolly scribbles a message way back when to his son in the present. His son and all of his dopey friends show up in New Mexico to go back in time to bring his father home. As soon as they arrive in medieval France, they get attacked by those evil Brits right off the bat, but then because some freaky dumb-ass accidentally lobs a grenade and blows up the fax-time machine in the present, they could be trapped in time—forever. Big deal. Shit was cheaper in the 14th Century. You could use all that knowledge of really lame romantic comedies to land some foxy chick in dire need of some good, hard, 21st Century loving. The rest of the movie turns into a grating chase, escape and battle movie. And when the battle finally starts, it is somehow forgotten as quickly as it begins. Too many things that are brought up in the beginning of the flick are somehow forgotten by the end. This is probably thanks to Richard Donner.
Donner was once a fine director, but somehow he’s lost the ability for storytelling. On the Lethal Weapon 4 commentary he talks about how the breakneck speed development of today’s films are way too much for him and he’d never want to work that way again. Unfortunately, the industry has not changed in his favor and he’s treading water trying to keep up. You have the likes of Michael Bay (for better or worse) cranking out huge blockbusters in weeks and just in time for Blockbuster Season. Donner’s flicks have weakened because of his lack of attention to details. In Timeline, it’s brought up that one of the main reasons for the consistent time traveling is to find out why this wormhole in linked to this moment in time, if indeed this is a wormhole they’re attached to. Characters ask a lot of questions, but are never answered because the medieval adventure takes over and that’s all that matters. As mediocre as Michael Crichton is, even he wouldn’t let unanswered questions slide. Donner’s come a long way from Gilligan’s Island, but I think retirement should be his next major project.
Reasons People Will See This:
“It” kid, Paul Walker, takes top billing in this one, but be warned he doesn’t have much screen time. It’s an ensemble cast and he’s just one insignificant character in a dozen. The main credit should go to Gerard Butler, but who’s heard of him? This is supposed to be littered with a hot, young and talented cast, that way when you look back ten years from now and maybe they’ll all be famous—just like Goonies—even though most of the Goonies cast was butt-raped by the Hollywood machine or Michael Jackson. But Timeline’s cast really doesn’t emote any acting (or charismatic qualities, for that matter) for future stardom to be possible. Another reason people will want to see this is for The Matrix’s smarmy Frenchman (who’s only in it for three minutes of screen time). He is decent for the short time, but that’s not worth the price of admission either. And of course the last and most important reason people want to see this is for the super-duper eardrum shattering soundtrack and special and visual effects. There really isn’t much FX in this unless you’re in love with CGI matte paintings which aren’t that good on the big screen anyway. Maybe on the tube it can hide some of the flaws and it won’t look as bad. Some kids will shell out some funds for flicks like this just so they can sneak into that naked Meg Ryan flick, the naked Brit flick or the naked Nicole Kidman flick by paying for Timeline, but kids like this perpetuate the whole Hollywood Homogenization Machine. So if the studios think you kids are watching The Cat in the Hat they’ll continue to make this garbage. Hell, just stay home, steal porno and keep the books straight in Hollywood. Because I’ll be fucked if I have to sit through Timeline 2: Driving Miss Daisy Vs. the Matrix.
What Time Is It Anyway?:
Army of Darkness, Biggles: Adventures in Time, Time Bandits, Time Rider, Time After Time, Somewhere in Time, The Time Machine, Time Walker, Back to the Future I, II and III, The Philadelphia Experiment, The Philadelphia Experiment Part II, Terminator 1, 2, and 3, Black Knight, The Kid in King Arthur’s Court, The Astronaut in King Arthur’s Court…
Timeline (1 ½ out of Four)
PG-13, 2003, 116 min., Paramount Pictures
Paul Walker, Frances O’Connor, Gerard Butler, Billy Connolly, Matt Craven, Michael Sheen, Ethan Embry, Anna Friel, David Thewlis, Lambert Wilson, Steve Kahan, Music by Brian Tyler, Produced by Lauren Shuler-Donner, Jim Van Wyck and Richard Donner, Written by Jeff Maguire and George Nolfi, Based on the Novel by Michael Crichton, Directed by Richard Donner.