Review – The Time Machine (1960)

the-time-machine-53c23161c8e93

the-time-machine-53c20f09a139cOne of the most over-used themes found in movies is time travel. Even now, you can find at least four different time traveling TV shows that are currently on. Probably more, even. It was arguably introduced by H. G. Wells in the novel, The Time MachineSo, in 1960, they made a movie based on this book. However, after living in an age where there are countless uses of time travel, how well does this one hold up? Surprisingly rather well, as it still holds something unique, and mostly never touched on in other time traveling books, movies, or TV shows.

From the book by H.G. Wells, a scientist and tinkerer builds a time machine and uses it to explore the distant future where there are two races, a mild gentle race, and a cannibalistic one living underground. His machine is stolen by the underground race and he must risk being captured (and eaten) to return to his own time. (IMDb)

PEOPLE
★★★★★★

This category is all about the people in the film. This covers their acting ability, if the characters themselves are any good, if they work well together as a team, if they are deeper or flatter as characters, and if the casting director even did their job right. These are all very important issues to consider while reviewing film.
  1.  Acting: ★★
    • Up first is acting, which is totally different from what you’d expect from today’s acting. That being said, the acting it has is specifically well done as it’s primarily focused on our main character, George. It is mostly a self-made discovery while he narrates, interacts with people in the future, and reacts to the world around him, making his overall ability to act rather great. Others in the movie aren’t really that great, but I’m going to guess they were directed to act less than him for social commentary reasons, but we’ll get to that later.
  2.  Characters: ★★
    • This movie surprisingly put a bit of emphasis on a lot more characters than I really remember it doing before. Apart from George, we have his friend Filby, who shows up in the future as well, as Filby’s son – who actually plays a vital role in steering George’s ultimate path in the story. Then, we have the love interest, Weena, and pretty much the entire community of Eloi versus the Morlocks, which is a solid representation of memorable characters.
  3. Good Casting: ★☆
    • Now, we’re onto casting, and for this…I can’t really say they cast the ONLY people that could’ve ever played these people. I want to say, specifically with George, that the actor could’ve been a number of others – Charlton Heston, Jimmy Stewart, Cary Grant – which would’ve probably locked this movie even more into a solid classic. Sure, some of those may have been too old for the role, but the one I’d choose would’ve been Heston.  So only one star here.
  4.  Good Importance: ★☆
    • This is a tricky one: importance. George has a huge stake in the importance here, and Weena and Filby help a little bit, but other than that, everyone else is really flat characters that aren’t focused on very much, nor have any real history or reason to be there. Most people are truly pawns in this film, so I’d have to give this one star, as well.
  5.  Good chemistry: ★★
    • One of the best things I’ll say about Rod Taylor here is that he had a really good handle on having great chemistry with everyone he interacted with…Heck, even with the Morlocks. There’s a bit of romance in here that even IMDb likes to point out in their genres, and while it’s important, and does have good chemistry, I’d consider it a little unnecessary.

WRITING
★★★★★★

This category obviously covers the writing aspect of the critique. First, you want to know a little bit about the script. Specifically, how is the dialogue? Are they saying anything memorable or inspirational…or was it just a bland conversation to keep the story going? How was the story itself? Was it well-balanced or over-convoluted? Was it original? Was it even interesting? Once again, all very important questions
  1.  Dialogue: ★★
    • I’m not surprised with the dialogue here, a lot of older films put a lot of attention on the dialogue of the film. You’ll notice our main character talks a lot over narration as well as spoken words, but it actually goes deeper than that. The dialogue adds to the message of the film, which I’ll touch up more with that in the story subcategory.
  2.  Good Balance: ★★
    • Nothing complicated here. Perfect ratio of characters, settings, and story. Two stars.
  3.  Good Story: ★★
    • Here’s where things are really surprisingly good. The moral to this story was a social commentary on where the world is headed. It’s social commentary as well as just pure creativity behind it. H.G. Wells noticed a decline in civilization. Both in laziness and hatred, as wars began to rise at the crack of the new millennium. He saw how people’s intelligence dropped as the years went by, which ultimately landed at the far off future where we almost come full circle with barbarianism and neanderthals. The story was sort of deep and unique at its core, so it’s hard not to give this the full two stars.
  4.  Originality: ★★
    • Original? Yes, amazingly with all of the time travel films and tv shows available now, we still haven’t seen anything as simple as this – a focus not on the past, but on the future. Eveyone wants to see people change time by going to the past and killing Hitler, stopping terrorist attacks, whatever. They are so obsessed with the idea of going back in time that they forget to look forward, and go off to the future to see what becomes of this world. As far as I’m concerned, this is the only movie that really does it, the closest anything else comes is maybe Back to the Future 2. This is truly original – 2 stars.
  5.  Interesting: ★★
    • Darn right it’s interesting! It’s time travel, y’all! Two stars.

BEHIND-THE-SCENES
★★★★★★★★

Never forget that there are hard-working individuals working on this film day in and day out. It’s a great story, yes, but people helped make that possible. People like the directors, who have to take written word on a script, and somehow translate that for the big screen in a way an audience would understand. Editors, who are given a ton of material and expected to further make that idea and image the director has already – into a reality, like the director of photography, whose job is to make this movie look amazing…whether that means natural settings and landscapes, CGI, 3D, technical effects, or otherwise. The production crew, who are in charge of making advertisements that aren’t false, and don’t give too much away. Finally, the sound crew, who are in charge of everything the audio has – sound effects, sound editing, music, you name it. These are all puzzle pieces.
  1. Visuals: ★★
    • Alright, I almost gave this one star just because of a scene near the beginning was atrociously bad. Like, you can tell how fake it looks. You can tell where real life and miniature replicas come in. It basically takes you right back out of the movie. However, this still got full points for one main reason. Thinking back to this movie decades later, I remember how the entire thing looked. It’s memorable, it really is. The sets, the buildings, the costumes, the bad guys, the good guys, the sphynx, the time machine itself, even George’s freaking house. It’s hard to ignore that, so I have to give this full points, two stars.
  2.  Directing: ★☆
    • Directing is the main thing I have to dog on, because it doesn’t take the movie in a direction I would, especially going into the future. This is actually a benefit the remake probably had…I don’t really remember, but you have more of an extended period to revisit. Today’s world really does look like the future, but in 1960, they really only had six decades to visit truthfully. Plus, the first real future he visits is in 1966, only six years after the movie’s release date. That’s not the future, at the bare minimum go a decade. Realistically, go five decades. 1966 was too soon. The world is a violent one, I understand, but you gotta work with me here. Space it out, you go from like 1900-1966 before jumping to the year 100,000 or whatever it is.
  3.  Editing: ★★
    • Movies were a lot harder to edit realistically back in the day than how they are today. The editor had to somehow use his or her magic to portray time passing by, and they definitely did it here. They did it through time-lapse technology, which turned out really well. Two stars.
  4.  Advertisement: ★★
    • I’m not going to really refer to advertisement for this one in the traditional sense. For this, it really comes to word of mouth. Does word of mouth really do it justice? This is more of an opinion, but yes, I think it’s pretty easy to talk about with someone and do the movie justice. Two stars.
  5.  Music: ★★
    • Old movies and their music, man! They are always so powerful and tense that it’s really hard to ignore. Back then, differentiating music wasn’t something that was difficult, as it often is today. You knew the score rather well. Two stars.

NARRATIVE ARC
★★★★★★★★★★

Have you ever been left wondering what it was about a film that felt…off, but you couldn’t place what it was? Well, a lot of people actually aren’t educated on the traditional narrative arc structure – which is seen in almost every movie or book story. With a missing piece, you might not understand what feels missing.
  1.  Introduction: ★★
    • Now, this shouldn’t be hard to understand, but older movies, and especially older movies based off of books, have no problem with the narrative, but let’s go ahead anyway. The introduction ultimately introduces us to, actually, most of George’s colleagues as they wait for him during a dinner. This is a flash-forward. Then George shows up tattered and beaten, telling them he’s got an amazing story to tell.
  2.  Inciting Incident/Crossing the Threshold: ★★
    • The inciting incident comes when the film goes back to the beginning of the story that he’s about to tell – which occurs five days prior. He also had his colleagues over for dinner. This time, he’s telling them all he’s created a time machine, and even proves it with a model version of it. Most of them don’t believe it, the others don’t want any part of it regardless. The crossing of the threshold comes down to George walking to the full-scale version and pressing the lever forward – beginning his journey to the future.
  3.  Obstacles: ★★
    • This is a journey from Point A to Point B, meaning the stops along the way are mostly the obstacles we’re looking for. In 1917, there is a war going on. Then, there’s another war in the 40s, and then there’s some kind of apocalyptic event going on in 1966, pretty much ending the world until many millennia have passed. These are the obstacles.
  4.  Epiphany/Climax: ★★
    • Weirdly enough, we have a climax first, ending in an epiphany…which is completely unheard of unless you have movies teasing a sequel, which this one wasn’t. However, there’s a pretty huge climax that happens and a post-climax epiphany. So take that as you will. They’re both there, so it still gets full points.
  5.  Falling Action: ★★
    • So where was the falling action? It was sort of split down the line. There was a falling action after the climax, then that epiphany was part of the falling action, and then the falling action continued after that to wrap things up. It’s a weird falling action narratively speaking, but it still works. Two stars.

OVERALL ENTERTAINMENT
★★★★★★☆☆

Here’s something most critics overlook because they’re always so keyed in on critiquing the technical elements of a film. Well, that may be statistically accurate, but the numbers that are released aren’t always reflective of what we enjoyed about it…which is when we say the movie was under-appreciated or whatever. This category focuses on pure entertainment.
  1.  Rewatchability: ★★
    • I’m not entirely sure how many times I’ve seen this movie, but it’s been a few times, so I’d say rewatchability is definitely up there. Two stars for this.
  2.  Fun: ★☆
    • Is it fun? Yeah, in parts, but I think it’s more of a good movie than a fun movie, if that makes sense. It is, it’s really good on pretty much every level. I can’t say I have fun watching it, other than a few parts, but I have a good time watching it if that makes sense. One star.
  3.  Impulse to buy it: ★
    • From all of the times I’ve seen this movie, I still don’t own it. I wouldn’t mind owning this movie and watching it over and over again, I just never felt the urge to bust out money for it, either. For this, I’m giving one star for that reason.
  4.  Impulse to talk to someone about it: ★☆
    • I do have a bit of an impulse to talk to people about it. It’s not a craving or anything that upsets me if I can’t, but I have some words to talk about it with others. For this, I also give it one star.
  5.  Sucks the audience in: ★★
    • This is definitely true. Not only because of time travel but also, it poses such a unique idea. What does the future hold? Why are we all so afraid of the future holding destruction in the near future? What’ll happen then? It doesn’t have any issues sucking you in. Two stars.

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SPECIALTY QUESTIONS

These are special questions written by you before seeing the movie, based on expectations, questions, stereotypes, you name it. If it’s a Tom Cruise movie, have Cruise-isms, if it’s a horror film, ask how scary it is, if it’s a sequel, ask if it fits in with the universe or if it was even needed to begin with, you catch the drift.

TIME TRAVEL
★★★★★★★★★★

SPECIALTY QUESTION #1

Here is the first specialty category question – Time Travel. This is a sort of sub genre that needs to be talked about. When people often talk about movies, they say it’s a time travel movie – so how is the time travel utilized in The Time Machine?  Does it have many plot holes? That’s always a major concern for these movies. Well, there’s one main problem. He said the time machine vanished because space and time doesn’t work the same way as you think, so it’s in the same spot, just in another time. Yet, when he goes into the time machine, you watch as time passes by. So even though it’s going faster, he’s still in that same spot, meaning that model shouldn’t have vanished.  That being said, I may stretch it out and overanalyze it, but for 1960, that’s not bad. The rest of the movie is pretty spot on with everything. 10 stars.

MORLOCKS
★★★★★★★★★★

SPECIALTY QUESTION #2

The second thing people sometimes think of, or mention, when talking about The Time Machine, are the Morlocks, the evil underground villains of the future. So, how do they look? Surprisingly great, in my opinion. When they’re lit up, you can tell they sort of look ridiculous, but when they are in the dark slowly peering around the corner with their glowing eyes – they looked intimidating and a little frightening…especially when you’re talking about a movie made in 1960. Throughout the film, it mostly builds up to revealing them, and it’s not an unsatisfactory reveal.

STILL HOLDS UP
★★★★★★★★★★

SPECIALTY QUESTION #3

Does it still hold up is the next specialty question. In general, and as a whole, it most certainly does. This is the introduction to time travel in film, and it is still ridiculously unique and original. In my mind, there’s nothing out there like this film, so obviously, this one gets 10 stars as well.

AGE WELL
★★★★★☆☆☆☆☆

SPECIALTY QUESTION #4

Next up, we have to ask ourselves if the movie ages well. The answer to that is yes and no. You can certainly tell the aging when it came to the costume design and visual effects with miniatures. The clothing never really advances after 1960, and you’ll notice that really quick. In 1966, people were wearing silver radiation suits, which were a little silly, and the far off land people were just wearing really typical outfits you’d normally see in 1960 as well.  However, that’s just two aspects. The rest of the movie actually fits in very well with today. The most memorable thing about this movie is arguably the time machine itself, which people will never forget.

CLASSIC
★★★★★★★★★★

SPECIALTY QUESTION #5

The last specialty question comes down to if this still feels classic. I don’t really believe in the thought that once a movie becomes a classic, it remains there for all eternity. I believe some things can age and just be silly, and I believe movies that came out long ago were more one of a kind than they are now…which devalues the question on if they are still a classic. The Time Machine was once seen as a classic, what about now? I would say now, it’s even more of a classic than it use to be, because it’s among countless other time travel films around, and it still holds its ground rather well. Definitely a classic, definitely 10 stars.

RATING: 89/100

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