It's astonishing that HG Wells' acclaimed tomes should have inspired so many duff movies. Besides "Things to Come" (which he scripted) and the original "Invisible Man", Wells-based movies have largely been underwhelming.
No wonder then that hopes were so high for this second big-screen adaptation of "The Time Machine". The decision to hire Wells' great-grandson Simon to direct left many confident the film would buck the trend. This confidence was, alas, misplaced.
After the death of his fiancée, mathematician Alexander Hartdegen (Pearce) invents a time machine to go back into the past, but ends up 800,000 years into a future where Earth is in the clutches of primitive civil war.
Humans have evolved into two races: the above ground Eloi, who are quite nice; and the nasty, underground Morlocks, who come up at night to hunt the Eloi.
With plot embellishments including a romantic storyline stolen (literally) from an episode of Star Trek, it soon becomes apparent that Wells' relationship with the author in no way guarantees his film will bear relation to its source. And while Pearce is fine (if not a patch on Rod Taylor, the Aussie star of George Pal's 1960 adaptation), Samantha Mumba and her brother Omero are less successful.
The film does have its share of pleasant touches, though: Jeremy Irons is excellent, if under-used, as the leader of the enslaving Morlocks, and Mark Addy charmingly recreates the role Alan Young played in Pal's picture (in another nice flourish, Young cameos as a florist).
However, for the most part, Wells' movie is more content to rip off "Tomb Raider" than remain faithful to his great-grandfather's book. Which is a great shame since, like most of the author's work, the material is tailor-made for the movies.