Wednesday, May 23, 2007
The Time Machine
65 years of hindsight and global conflict made these scenes possible, and it serves to remind us how sure that generation was that humanity's final destruction was most probably just around the corner. They had a far less limp-wristed apocalypse in mind too: global warming of the most intense kind.
Re-watching the movie many years later and having recently read the book, I cannot but regret some of the creative decisions that Pal had to take to turn it into a 50s-style sci-fi adventure. The sting of Wells's vision of our posterity as over-specialised Underworld and Overworld beings evolved in turn from the men of labour and luxury has to a large extent been taken out. Weena survives, the Morlocks get genocided, and George himself becomes an uncomplicated man of action that ends up devoting his life to rebuilding the future he's just destabilised.
In contrast, in the world that H.G. Well began writing in, the imminent catastrophe facing mankind was perceived as a social one and needed fixing in the present. His Time Traveller is a more nuanced personality, with some important contradictions. "The fact is that the Time Traveller was one of those men who are too clever to be believed: you never felt you saw all around him; you always suspected some subtle reserve, some ingenuity in ambush, behind his lucid frankness." I've known a couple of individuals like this...
The DVD has a fun little documentary made in the 90s which charts the checkered history of the time machine prop itself.