a critiQal film review Timeline (2003)

  • DVD
  • Vudu

Plot: While on a dig at Castlegard, France, a group of student archaeologists discover their Professor (Connolly) has gone missing. Determined to track him down, the students head for the headquarters of the benefactor of their dig, only to discover an accidental wormhole which has trapped their Professor in a vicious 14th century feudal war! Can the professor's loyal students survive one of the most violent battles in world history...and make it back to the 21st century alive?

776 words (Est. Reading Time 3m 52s)
  • ...decent character acting help another Michael Crichton book make a good translation to the screen.

The first time I saw a preview for Timeline, I couldn’t believe it. Since I’d just barely finished reading the book, it was exciting to know that a movie was in the works and on it’s way.

I really enjoyed the book, so I was a little worried that it may lose a bit too much in the translation to the screen, but the previews seemed well done, so I hoped it would turn out all right.

I missed it during it’s brief run through the theaters, so when it hit DVD, I definitely wanted to see it as soon as possible. Would it be worth it, or would it have been better off to leave the realization of the book in my own head?

Being an adaptation of a Michael Crichton novel, it probably wasn’t so hard to get actors for parts in this film. After Michael’s other successful book-to-screen translations (Jurassic Park (1993) and it’s sequel, Disclosure, etc.), I’m sure Gerard Butler, Billy Connolly, Paul Walker, Frances O’Connor and the rest jumped at the chance to star in this latest one. And they didn’t do that bad of a job with it, either.

Gerard Butler gets a chance to jump into the limelight (again) with this film, after his supporting role (behind Christian Bale and Matthew McConaughy) in Reign of Fire (2002). After that film, you would think he would be very used to the “olden times” setting, and he does seem to bring a bit of his experience from that film with him, making him the ideal person to play the role he does in this film. He doesn’t seem to be as enthusiastic this time around, however (maybe it’s getting a bit old for him), which is a bit unfortunate, but doesn’t detract too much from his role in the film.

Billy Connolly is almost a distraction in Timeline, but maybe that’s just me. He reminds me a bit too much of a Scottish John Cleese, so I kept looking to him for the comic relief, when in fact that relief comes from a much more surprising source: Frances O’Connor’s facial expressions. She seems to be mugging for the camera in most of her scenes, and provides a bit of hilarity to the whole situation. This almost constant mugging does detract from the suspension of disbelief the audience needs for this film to work, and ends up hurting the film in the long run. Paul Walker doesn’t really impress here, and basically just goes through his scenes without much hoopla.

The plot, while the same main storyline from the book, does differ a bit towards the end of Timeline, and leaves out bits and pieces that I thought (while reading the book) would have looked great on screen. But that can be said for almost any book-to-screen adaptation, and for the most part the film tries hard to stay true to the book.

The whole concept of discovering time travel has been used before of course (can anyone say The Time Machine (2002)? Good!), but sending archaeologists back to rescue their boss is a bit different, as is the setting (Castlegard, France, on the eve of it’s downfall). It does gloss over the major worries of time travel (changing the past changes the future) as well as the technical details, but, be it either reading the novel or watching the film, it’s pace is quick enough you probably won’t even notice until after the movie is done.

The special effects are a bit of a letdown, but then again, I know I’ve been spoiled with enormous medieval-type fight scenes from The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002) as of late, so it would be hard for Timeline to top that.

The time travel effects are well done, though, and the battle scenes are decent enough. Nothing really spectacular though…the time travel effects were done better in The One, and (as I’ve already mentioned) the battle sequences don’t compare to other recent movies in terms of either scope or drama.

All in all, Timeline makes a decent translation to the screen. It’s not going to become another Jurassic Park (1993) for Michael Crichton, but it should be enough to keep him happy.

Decent character acting (albeit with a bit too much camera mugging by Frances), an intriguing plot, and decent effects should keep most viewers satisfied. It’s probably more of a rental than a keeper, but worth the couple of bucks for the rental.

They could have done better, but then again, they could have done a heck of a lot worse. A good weekend rental, decently enjoyable.

Oh yeah, and read the book sometime too…but wait until after you’ve seen Timeline.

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