Hey, There's a Bad Movie - Timeline
Category: Timeline Reviews | Posted by: stagewomanjen
Article Date: June 18, 2007 | Publication: bigpictureradio.com | Author: The Big Picture
There are no doubt easier novels to transform into films than those by Michael Crichton. His science is very heady, for the most part, and turning his written page into a wonderful visual on screen takes a patient, imaginative director. Thatís why Jurassic Park and Westworld have really been the only good Crichton film.
Timeline combines some of Crichtonís science from the novel with the two-fisted action of director Richard Donner, whose long-suffering creativity hasnít surfaced in over a decade. At this stage in his career, Donner - who decades ago directed The Omen, Lethal Weapon, and Superman - might have Mary and Joseph chased into Bethlehem by Russian mobsters on horseback just to liven things up a bit. Who better, then, to misplace action in a science-heavy Crichton novel?
At play in the book and the movie is a wormhole, which any Trekkie can tell you is a space-time tunnel connecting the here and now with the there and then. Researchers from a giant tech firm have been looking into three-dimensional faxing, transporting people and places from one place to another. Again, Star Trek can be easily invoked. Man, was Gene Roddenberry ahead of his time.
But instead of faxing International Technology Corporation employees from the New Mexico headquarters to their New York office, ITC sends them to the woods. In France. In May 1357. During the 100 Years War. The thing about wormholes is that their destinations are fixed; itís not strictly speaking time travel, because ITC couldnít pop up in France for Dick Clarkís New Yearís Rockiní Eve 1358.
Once they identify the where and when of their wormhole, ITC hires famed archaeologist Edward Johnston (Billy Connolly) to journey into the 14th Century. Heís willing to travel back in time, of course, because it helps his current dig in Castlegard, France. Heíll also get bonus points if he can make his mother and father go to the prom together, and keep her away from that evil Biff.
Since thereís a war going on in Castlegard, it makes the journey back home a little tougher for Professor Johnston, so his team of archaeology students and his less-than-studious son (Paul Walker), jump on the transporter in their best Renaissance Festival clothes to save a brilliant scientist who was dumb enough to walk into the distant past with no backup.
Itís not all business for Johnstonís son. Of course, since heís a Paul Walker creation that kind of goes without saying. Chris carries a torch for Kate Ericson (Frances OíConnor), her dadís star student, and curiously, the only woman in the movie interested in archaeology. Amidst all the strife that normally accompanies wormhole rescue missions, Chris is trying to work his surf bum magic. Itís a pretty ridiculous subplot, even by Richard Donnerís sliding standards.
As bad as Timeline might soundÖwell, it is, unfortunately, as bad as it sounds. But thatís not to say there arenít redeeming qualities. Gerard Butler, who around this same time in his career, very nearly escaped the Tomb Raider 2 debacle unscathed, is quite compelling as Andrť Marek, another of the archaeology students who becomes the filmís heroic figure. Billy Connolly is good, too, but wasted in a movie that devotes more attention to the action it tries to invent than the science that already exists.
Ultimately, however, there are too many predictable and formulaic elements to Timeline that make it instantly forgettable. Thereís an dubious ITC bigwig bent on using his new toy for his own evil devices, thereís the empty love story, thereís the absolute lack of connectivity between father and son, and there might even be the character who wants to stay behind. And really, if this is in his future, it might not be such a bad idea.