STARRING: Paul Walker, Frances O'Connor, Gerard Butler, Billy Connolly

2003, 115 Minutes, Directed by: Richard Donner

Description: A group of archaeologists working in the Dordogne area of France have uncovered the remains of a 14th Century castle. Little do they realise that soon they will be caught up in the adventure of a lifetime. A technology company have secretly designed a time travel device which has opened a portal into the 14th Century.

Many reviewers have gone on about how this adaptation of the Michael (Jurassic Park, Andromeda Strain, Congo) Crichton novel of the same name did its source a disservice by skimping on characterization in favor of action.

Well, it’s obvious they haven’t read the novel on which it is based.

Crichton needn’t have bothered with writing novels the past decade or so. He might as well have churned out screenplays instead because his literary output for this period has been so obviously geared towards being adapted for movies that it’s almost painful to witness. The novel (which I did incidentally read) was quite skeletal when it came to character development, background information and even extraneous descriptions (of both scenery and his main characters – I was well into the novel without any idea of what his main characters actually looked like!).

Instead Crichton settled for the swashbuckling route: his novel is filled with all kinds of derring-do as characters flee from pursuers, escape from castles, and so forth. Along the way we are thrown some factoids about the latest revisionist thinking regarding medieval life and some techno babble that feels lifted from a Star Trek episode.

The same goes for this movie adaptation by director Richard Donner (of Superman - the Movie and Ladyhawke fame). Donner is a talented director, but he isn’t given much to work with here as we, yes, have people running around the whole time with dialogue of the “let’s go” and “run!” variety. Worse, while Crichton’s novel worked as an entertaining beach read (hey, I never said I didn’t enjoy it!) this movie doesn’t exactly work as the escapist entertainment it tries to be.

Instead the novel’s failings become quite glaring in this context. People we don’t care much about keeping running around as rummety dum music of the semi-martial/classical variety Hollywood are so fond of blare on the soundtrack. Worse, the movie doesn’t instil any curiosity about the middle ages (actually it was a pretty darn interesting time despite the comment in the 1975 Rollerball that it was just a case of Dante and a few corrupt Popes) in the viewer.

Some critics labeled Timeline unintentionally funny (intentionally banning thoughts of Monty Python’s Holy Grail does help though). Sadly it isn’t even that: it is just bland and easily forgettable. You remember unintentionally funny movies longer . . .



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