2002's 'The Time Machine' Is Actually Not as Great as I Remember

Updated on December 18, 2018
Disastrous Grape profile image

Ash has a bachelor's in English Lit, loves analyzing fiction, and is the author of the humorous science fantasy trilogy Fall Apart World.

I decided to look at the 2002 The Time Machine remake for old time's sake, and now I understand why so many people complained about it years ago when it first came out. At the time, I was young and didn't give a crap. Now that I'm older, I have so many craps to give.

Honestly, I think growing older just ruins stuff.

The Women Were All Plot Devices

Emma is presented as a standard Manic Pixie Dream Girl to Alex's Boring Depressed Smart Guy. She alone is wearing red in a sea of dull Victorian browns, greys, and blacks. She is full of life and thus she must die.

Emma exists purely to be "fridged," which is a way of saying she died in order to develop the "more important" male protagonist.

All too often in fiction, women are never anyone remotely important, are never characters in their own right, and solely exist to push male characters through their stories.

Just stating unfortunate facts here.

Emma was one such plot device. Used to make us pity Alexander and root for him, she is killed off within the first half-hour and her death is the catalyst for the story itself: without her death, there would be no time machine.

That might have been fine -- I mean, a lot of characters are used as plot devices. It can't be avoided. But they didn't even bother trying to give Emma some kind of real personality beyond her love of flowers.

In fact, it is Emma's ridiculous insistence on flowers that gets her killed the second time.

Mara is a New Goldfish

Alex gets to the future and meets Mara, who is just another version of Emma. She, like Emma, is used by the narrative to drive Alex through the plot when she is later captured by the Uber Morlock.

There was nothing so frustrating as watching Mara obediently fall back when Alex commands her. Alex then runs to save her brother for her, and because she humbly obeys him and doesn't help, she is captured instead.

I watched that scene thinking there was no way one of my female characters would have obeyed Alex and hung back while her baby brother was in danger. None of them would have fallen back. Every last one of them would have knocked Alex's skinny butt aside and run to save their brother.

Why in hell is Mara taking orders from Alex like some kind of child? Alex doesn't know this world. She does. Alex has never faced these creatures before. She has. And yet, she defers to him as if he were an expert on her world.

As the protagonist, Alex needs to seem heroic and in control. I get it. I get it perfectly. But a skilled writer would have found a way to make Mara look competent at the same time. Instead, she is infantalized by the narrative.

The plot relies on Emma and Mara being stupid. Instead of doing logical things, they do stupid, irrational, emotional things that get them kidnapped and killed. They are both written like some sexist guy's idea of a stereotypical damsel in distress.

Instead of just giving up her engagement ring, Emma fights a man with a gun.

Instead of just helping Alex save her brother from one Morlock, Mara hangs back with fifty other Morlocks.

And again, like Emma, Mara is reduced to having no personality beyond loving flowers. In fact, her utterly unique and interesting (obvious sarcasm) love of flowers reminds Alex of Emma.

Mara reminds Alex of Emma. She is basically his New Goldfish.

It could be that Emma is just an idiot and Mara is similar to her just to give the audience a feasible reason as to why Alex is suddenly so in love with Mara, a woman he has known all of, like, fifteen hours. But because there are only three women in the main cast, at a glance, it just looks like sexism.

The three remotely important women are Emma, Mara, and Mrs. Watchit.

It's bad when the two out of three women in a film are stereotypical depictions of some man's idea of "woman."

If Vox, the virtual librarian, had been a woman, that would have been really cool. Hell, Vox -- the sentient machine -- had more personality than Emma and Mara combined. I love Orlando Jones, but there were some great black female comedians who could have done that role just as well.

The Uber Morlock could have been a woman.

Honestly. There was no real reason for every important character to be a man. Even the background characters were mostly men. Hell, the robber who shot Emma could've been a woman. As much as I love Mr. Irons, could you imagine Angelica Houston in this role? She would have knocked it out of the park.

But employ more actresses in serious roles that don't involve nudity? I know. Silly, silly me.

Naive Black and White Ending

Aside from the women being sexist stereotypes and plot devices, the other thing that really bothered me was the fact that the Morlocks were presented as "evil" and the Eloi were presented as "good."

In the original story, the Morlocks and the Eloi were neither evil nor good. They were simply the product of their evolution. The Morlocks were doing what they had to do in order to survive and the Eloi were their frightened cattle.

This was really a commentary on class systems in general, and how the working class is demonized while the rich and elite hoard all the resources, forcing the working class to live in poverty, ugly and unhealthy, and committing survival crime.

Jeremy Irons presents this well in his calm, tired "Go back to your time period" performance, but the message is still hand-waved when his character is killed and his people slaughtered by Alexander, who thinks he has done something heroic by the end.

In reality, all Alex did was postpone a time when more Morlocks would come from other areas looking for food. He didn't kill the root of the problem but the symptom.

What Alex did was the equivalent of going into a ghetto and killing all the people there, then going back to the same system of oppression and expecting no poor people to take their place.

We even see in the film itself that the Morlocks eventually take over, spreading across the entire planet, in much the same way humans eventually took over Earth after we learned to domesticate the animals we used to follow in roving hunter-gatherer bands.

The original message of the story is lost in favor of a childish black-and-white idealism. I believe it was lost because the writers didn't anticipate that the audience would be able to understand or accept the original story. . . . which is utterly depressing.

If I were H.G.Wells, I would be pissed about this movie. I know most writers like for the original themes of their books to be upheld.

To be fair, I think the writers of the 2002 version tried to get the point across that the Morlocks weren't evil, but they did it in a very subtle, very hesitant way, because in the end, the Morlocks are still destroyed and we are shown the "good" Eloi living in relative peace in their beautiful, sunny world.

"The day and the night" indeed.

Questions & Answers

    © 2018 Ash Gray


    Submit a Comment

    No comments yet.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, reelrundown.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://reelrundown.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)