Monday, March 25, 2013

The Donner Party

Welp, it's been a long Winter quarter, and I did what the school told me to do.  Now it's spring break, and now the movies are telling me what to do.  One a night for four nights in a row!  And no time to report on anything.  Well, that stops right here and now.
First up, 2003's Timeline.  Now, it pains me to critique the work of auteur extraordinaire Richard Donner, but he was apparently 73 years old when this hit theaters back in the day, so he can probably take it.  Besides, it's Michael Crichton's fault, really. But as my viewing companion pointed out, there's a couple good plot twists here that I kinda hate to spoil.  But in the final analysis, Back to the Future is still the best time travel movie for me.  I did enjoy the remake of The Time Machine, though, if a bit too sentimental.  I never did make it all the way through Timecop yet, though.  Can't do it.  Maybe it's seeing Sloane Peterson getting banged by Jean-Claude.  Just not kosher, know whut I mean?
Sorry, got sidetracked again.  So here's the setup: a company called ITC... not the company that distributed The Muppet Show to television... is attempting to put FedEx and UPS out of business.  Not the Post Office too, hopefully.  That would just be downright cruel.  They're putting R&D dollars into finding a way to ... basically, it's teleportation.  The Fly, Larry Niven books, what have you.  They accidentally stumble upon time travel.
Fine setup.  From there, things start to break down.  First of all, with Paul Walker.  Just something about that guy.  Probably just the jealousy talking, but he is a good son, and he wants to just get his father back.  His father is played by Billy Connolly.  Question #1: what's the deal with Paul Walker's lack of Scottish brogue? Is he just an Army brat or something?  The father goes missing and Walker's all over that.  There's panic at the archaeological dig in Castlegard, France.  Let me put it this way: I typed Castlegard into Wikipedia, and this came up.  I know, I know, I should know better.  These kinds of things are dangerous.  You name an actual place, and people start going there.  Like with Forks, Washington and the Twilight series!
Alas, this is the kind of people that's fun to watch just for beating up on it.  I will say this, though: Donner makes 14th Century France look like a pretty brutal place.  Useless characters are not spared.  Six travel back in time, and only three make it back.  My other major complaint is about the "markers," or what's used to travel back through time.  You have these tiny amulets, and you press them to see how much time you have left to travel back, and you press down on them to actually travel back.  And, on top of that, you need a 40-foot radius of open space to jump back.  I guess my first question is....... who invented these, and how?  You know, I'll bet the science behind them is pretty damn interesting.  The film wisely sidesteps all that stuff.
Also, I will give Donner credit on the casting, as Gerard Butler and Michael Sheen are still forces to be reckoned with in American cinema to this very day.  And of course, sympathy for poor Caleb Deschanel, who had to go work on The Passion of the Christ after this film.
Yes, it's a greatest hits reel for both Crichton and Donner.  I was reminded of the archaeological dig of Jurassic Park and... well, that's about it for Crichton.  For some reason, when everyone was talking all at once in moments of panic, I couldn't help but think more of The Goonies and less of the staging of Robert Altman.  And Donner perhaps had a flashback or two to Ladyhawke, another Middle Ages period piece.  But really, they probably should've picked a better release date.  2003 was a big year for cinema with big fight sequences.  Matrix 3, Cold Mountain, and of course the final installment of The Lord of the Rings.  I think people were a little bit burned out on this kind of thing, to say the least.

**1/2
-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

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