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The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Saturday, December 02, 2023

'Timeline' out of mind

If not for having read and enjoyed the original Michael Crichton novel, I would have walked into \Timeline"" expecting the terrible acting and unintentionally funny dialogue. In fact, if not for having read the book, I wouldn't have gone to see it at all. I lost any and all expectations for a faithful adaptation when I heard it was starring Paul Walker (""Fast and the Furious"" and its pitiful sequel) and helmed by Richard Donner (the ""Lethal Weapon"" series).  




The plot of the film is simple. Archaeologists are mysteriously funded by a tech company that is feeding them tips about their dig site in France. A professor investigates and discovers the tech company has invented quasi-time travel. He goes back in time and gets stuck in the past. His son and dig crew, along with a few ex-Marines for protection, go in for the save. Hilarity ensues.  




The horrid wreck of a screenplay comes as no surprise, since the only Michael Crichton books that were even competently adapted to the screen were ""Andromeda Strain,"" ""Disclosure"" and ""Jurassic Park."" By turning ""Timeline"" into a period action piece, the film becomes a tired vehicle for set design and pretty boys Walker and Gerard Butler. Crichton novels always focus on pseudoscience and corporate responsibility as much as they do on the ""what-if"" scenarios that make them attractive as movie properties.  




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Going against the spirit of the book, heavy-handed emotions have been added. There's an additional, unnecessary romance story, a theme of making your own history and Paul Walker playing a cool guy-none of it flies. Butler and Frances O'Conner both turn in adequate performances, and maybe if they weren't saddled down by Walker and piss-poor dialogue at every turn, they could have done a great job. Ethan Embry and Lambert Wilson are sadly given roles that amount to little more than overblown cameos. In Embry's case, his character was cut so much from the novel that I honestly wonder why they left him in at all.  




Crichton films work best when dealt with as Spielberg dealt with ""Jurassic Park""-flaunt the action, but not at the expense of decent dialogue, exposition and acting. Donner didn't learn the lesson, and it's apparent when you've got characters running around spouting B-movie lines like ""Do we look like quantum wormhole specialists?""  




I'm sure it's only a matter of a few years until Crichton's 2002 novel ""Prey"" hits screens as well. Just a tip to whichever studio bought the rights-you can take it seriously and make something to rival ""Jurassic Park,"" or you can screw around and churn out a piece of trash like ""Sphere"" and ""Timeline.""  




Just don't cast Paul Walker in it.

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