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Film / The Time Machine (2002)

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The Time Machine is a 2002 science fiction film directed by Simon Wells, loosely adapted from the classic novel of the same name by his great-grandfather H. G. Wells. More precisely, it's adapted from the 1960 film adaptation (whose rights had been owned by Warner Bros., the international distributor of the 2002 version, since 1996), with the writer of that version, David Duncan, even receiving a "based on the screenplay by" credit.

The Time-Traveler is Dr. Alexander Hartdegen (Guy Pearce), scientist and inventor. Alex sometimes comes off as overly optimistic and absent minded to his friend David Philby (Mark Addy) and his doting housekeeper Mrs. Watchit (Phyllida Law). The plot is set in motion when just after proposing to his girlfriend Emma (Sienna Guillory) the pair is mugged, and being unwilling to surrender the engagement ring she is shot and killed. Alex becomes a shut-in devoting all of his time and energy into making his theoretical time-machine into a reality. However You Can't Fight Fate comes into play, and his attempts to save her only result in death employing other means to find her.

Reasoning that if he discovered the secret to time-travel someone else eventually would, Alex decides to skip the years of maturation of the technology and travels forward in time, hoping to find an answer to why he cannot change the past. He arrives in the year 2037, where human efforts to colonize the moon have ended in disaster causing the moon itself to breakup and pelt the Earth with meteors. While attempting to flee this time line he is wounded and knocked out while his time machine continues forward. By the time he comes to the machine has spirited him to the year 802,701.

Here the Eloi are portrayed as Magical Native Americans, and lean very hard on Acceptable Breaks from Reality to be able to understand his language. Alex begins to make friends among the Eloi, including Mara (Samantha Mumba). Shortly thereafter Mara is kidnapped by the Morlocks, and with the Eloi too frightened to attempt a rescue he resolves to do so himself.

In the lair of the Morlocks, Alex meets the Über-Morlock (Jeremy Irons), who controls the Morlocks (and spies on the Eloi) through telepathy. Knowing who and what Alexander is, the Über-Morlock shows him a vision wherein his wife never dies, and as a result he chooses to spend his time with her and with his family rather than on building his time-machine. Now having given him the answer to the question of why he couldn't change the past, the Über-Morlock chooses to direct Alexander to return to his own time. But with nothing to return home to, Alexander chooses to fight the Über-Morlock and converts his time machine into a bomb to destroy the Morlocks, hopefully freeing the Eloi from their predation. The movie ends with Alexander finally coming to terms with the events he cannot change, and moving on to live in the new time in which he has found himself.

Tropes from the 2002 film version which weren't in the book:

  • Adaptational Badass: The Eloi are great architects, and retain survival techniques as well as actually trying to flee the Morlocks as opposed to the mindless livestock they were in the novel and 1960 movie. The Morlocks themselves are significantly tougher, and in the case of the Über-Morlock, far more intelligent.
  • Adaptational Location Change: Both H. G. Wells' 1895 novel The Time Machine and its 1960 film adaptation were set in London. The 2002 version, however, is set in New York City instead.
  • Adaptation Expansion: Our hero now has a Back Story in which he invents the time machine in order to go back and prevent his fiancée's untimely death.
  • Adaptation Name Change:
    • The time traveler was unnamed in the original story and named George in the 1960 adaptation. Here he is named Alexander Hartdegen.
    • Weena has been renamed Mara. Granted, Weena and Mara don't have much in common other than being the Time-Traveler's Eloi companion, so Mara can also be thought of as a separate character rather than the same character with a different name.
  • Affably Evil: The Uber-Morlock. He's polite and answers Alexander's questions. Only, he becomes violent when Alexander becomes obstinate and hypocritical.
  • An Aesop: Accept the things you cannot change, and move on, no matter how painful it is.
  • Alien Sky: In 802701, half of the moon and a cloud of smaller rocks are visible in the sky, as a result of men destroying it in the past.
  • All Musicals Are Adaptations: Parodied when Vox references a fictional Andrew Lloyd Webber musical version of The Time Machine.
  • Ambiguously Brown: The Eloi this time around are portrayed as having a somewhat dark, relatively even tan. This was presumably the result of thousands of years of constant intermingling, in contrast to the white Eloi in the 1960 version.
  • Anachronism Stew: In the opening, it's passingly mentioned that Alex is corresponding with a German patent clerk named Einstein. The film opens in 1899. Albert Einstein, while a brilliant university student, didn't get his job as a patent clerk until 1902. (Then again, was there ever really a time-traveller named Alexander Hartdegen?)
  • And I Must Scream: The Über-Morlock ends up hanging onto the Time Machine but outside the bubble; he's forced to basically age to death in normal time, unable to either let go of the machine or stop the process. (On the other hand, stuck as he was, he presumably couldn't eat or drink normally either, so he'd die a whole lot sooner.)
  • And Starring: "With Orlando Jones and Jeremy Irons."
  • Anti-Villain: The Morlocks to a degree, though this loses in translation both the anti-war symbolism of the 1960 film and the class commentary in the original novel. As the Über-Morlock explains, they were forced by circumstance to breed themselves into castes when it became apparent to their distant ancestors (i.e. the ones who went underground) that they couldn't return topside. The Über-Morlock, in particular, answers Alexander's question and returns his time machine to him, asking only that he leaves. The only time he actually acts hostile towards Alexander is after Alexander attacks him.
  • Apocalypse How: The Detonation Moon in 2037 apparently devastated the Earth with natural disasters which caused a Class 2, leading to humans evolving into the Eloi and Morlocks respectively. If there was any devastation to the Earth's biosphere, it seems to have fully recovered within 800,000 years.
  • Artistic License – Biology: Alex briefly ends up in a very, very, very far future—635 million years ahead—in which Morlocks have conquered the Eloi valley. Although neither they nor any surviving Eloi or any other species are shown up close, the strong implication is that they stayed largely the same (even their spiky skull-shaped outposts haven't changed). 635 million years is a vast geological Time Skip; it's farther away from The Present Day than The Present Day is from the Cambrian, when all life was small, underwater and spineless. It is highly unlikely that so little biological evolution would've occurred in that vast timespan (hell, the Über-Morlock evolved from human ancestors to have his brain grow out of his head and down his back in the space of just the prior 800,000 years).
  • Artistic License – Geology: 800,000 years is not enough time for the Hudson River to erode into a canyon. That would take millions of years.
  • Artistic License – Physics: Nuclear weapons detonated on or in the moon would cause a huge spray of debris, a massive earthquake (well, moonquake), contaminate its surface with radioactive material and leave behind a huge crater. That's it. There's no chance it would be thrown out of orbit or start breaking up even if you used the entire world's nuclear arsenal combined.
  • Artistic License – Space: An explosion on the Moon rains debris upon the Earth and leaves the Moon itself split into two large broken halves and a cloud of smaller rocks over a period of almost a million years, rather than either gravitationally attracting each other back into a single body or spreading themselves out into a ring system as they actually would have over that long an interval.
  • Awesome Anachronistic Apparel: When the doctor stops in the (relatively) near future, a girl passing by admires his "retro" outfit.
  • Beneath the Earth: Where the Morlocks live, naturally. Some pop out directly from sand traps to kidnap the Eloi.
  • Bishōnen Line: The normal castes of Morlock look like burly troglodytes with reddish animalistic eyes, and vaguely skull-like faces with the snipers being only slightly less burly and slightly more humanoid, communicating through animalistic shots. The Über- Morlock in comparison resembles a human completely outside of having pale-white skin, Icy Blue Eyes and having his brain being large enough to reach his lower back- as well as hold sophisticated arguments with Alex.
  • Blessed with Suck: When Alex asks why he considers the Eloi "lucky" to have no knowledge of the past or ambition for the future, Vox replies, in an almost teary voice: "Can you even imagine what it's like to remember everything?"
  • Blue-and-Orange Morality: For Alex, the "status quo" between the Eloi and Morlocks is utterly brutal and inhumane. For the Über-Morlock, it's just the way of things, and briefly finds Alex's revulsion genuinely baffling.
    Über-Morlock: Who are you to question 800,000 years of evolution?
  • Brain Critical Mass: The Über-Morlock has a massive brain that extends down his back and uses it to control the Morlocks.
  • Brain Monster: The Über-Morlock is of a caste in which the brain has become so enlarged that it's not only visibly exposed on the back of his head, but its lobes extend halfway down his back as well.
  • Call-Back: At the start of the film, in a seemingly throwaway conversation, Alexander tells David he gets into a philosophical rant about how generic everyone's look is, with endless bowler hats, Alexander wanting to just get rid of them. In the closing seconds of the film, David looks like he's about to tip his hat to his missing friend... when he outright throws it away, showing his respect for Alexander's radical ideas.
  • Celebrity Paradox: The AI Librarian mentions H.G. Wells' The Time Machine, whose story this is an adaptation of.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Alex reaching out of the time bubble to catch his dropped pendant and his hand rapidly aging while outside the bubble's protection. The Über-Morlock is killed when Alex manages to shove him outside the bubble and sends the machine forward, aging him to dust.
  • Cold Ham: The Über-Morlock is much more composed and subdued compared to his underlings, and hardly raises his voice. Yet he easily steals every scene he's in.
  • Cosmic Plaything: Try as he might, Alexander cannot prevent his beloved Emma's death. Any attempt to alter history simply results in her getting killed by another unforeseen event. Turns out there's a very good reason for this. If he achieved the impossible there would be no reason for him to build the time machine in the first place, creating an unresolvable paradox.
  • Cultural Translation: The film moves the setting from London to New York.
  • Day Hurts Dark-Adjusted Eyes: After centuries of living underground, the Morlocks' ancestors eventually tried to live outside their underground caves, but were unable to adjust to the sunlight. This is what drove them to become a hunting species to feed off of the Eloi above.
  • Deadly Deferred Conversation: Nonlethal example. Alexander is arguing with his friend after the death of his fiance. They agree to continue the discussion in a week, during which Alex intends to change history and fix things. Instead, by that time Alexander is stuck in the future.
  • Deadly Force Field: Relatively speaking. The time machine's force field is still permeable, so if you're halfway inside or outside, your body will age at the same rate as whichever side of the field it's on. Alex finds this out the hard way when his hand rapidly ages when he sticks it out by accident. Later he uses it to good effect by literally "fast-forwarding" while fighting with the Über-Morlock whose hands are the only part of him inside the time bubble. Unable to let go, this either means most of the Über-Morlock ages and dies in normal time (or possibly starves to death and then decays in real time) outside, while his hands don't age inside, and logically break off (or rather the rest of him breaks off).
  • Deadpan Snarker: Vox is just about the only snarky character in the whole movie. Eventually, Alex becomes a bit of one as well.
    Vox: Whether the truth is so horrible it will haunt your dreams for all time?
    Alex: Well, I think I'm used to that.
  • Detonation Moon: In the year 2037, the moon breaks up due to attempts to demolish the lunar colony going horribly awry, causing an Apocalypse How. In the year 802,701 AD, the moon's remains are still orbiting the Earth, visible in the night sky.
  • Disposable Woman: Emma. Alex spent four years building his time machine to change history and save her from dying. When this fails, he contemplates how he could try a thousand times without success. She really does have no further Character Development than being destined to die.
  • Emergency Temporal Shift: After the cataclysm of the moon breaking up in 2037, Alex scrambles back into his machine and just keeps going forward to evade it, but as he's immediately knocked out he didn't get to stop it again until he comes to and pauses it in 802,701. He later also does this to escape from or get rid of the Über-Morlock—apparently there he'd floored the time lever so hard he's flung 635 million years forward in the space of minutes.
  • Eternal English: This time, the Eloi have their own language, but they still speak "the Stone Language" found on pieces of ruins of U.S. buildings. And Vox the AI librarian (see Who Wants to Live Forever? below) likely fills the same role in maintaining early 21st-century American English pronunciation as the talking rings did in the 1960 film.
  • Evil Overlooker: The poster.
  • Famous, Famous, Fictional:
  • Fictionary: The Eloi have their own language that, oddly, sounds rather limited. The word tamquen seems to have several different connotations, as it's used several times in rapid succession at one point.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • A flatscreen advertisement in 2030 is shown promoting an ambitious lunar engineering project, which in 2037 is shown to have backfired horribly, eventually resulting in humanity's evolution into the Eloi and Morlocks.
    • In the year 802,701, Vox sardonically makes a bleating sound to Mara's brother after explaining to him and Alex what happened to the world. Giving away the Eloi's purpose as livestock to the Morlocks well before the Über-Morlock spells it out.
  • Funny Background Event: In the New York Public Library in 2030, a teacher says to one of her students, "Tommy, do that again and I'll resequence your DNA. Now, march!"
  • Genetic Engineering Is the New Nuke: Downplayed. Genetics are hinted to have become a sophisticated science by 2030, while the Über-Morlock later on mentions how his ancestors (those who went underground after the lunar disaster in 2037), bred themselves into castes over the course of 800,000 years. David Duncan's original screenplay, meanwhile, would made the genetic engineering angle even more explicit, with the Über-Morlock using various machines to help create more like themselves.
  • Genius Bruiser: The Uber-Morlock. Psychic Powers combined with a very strong body.
  • Godiva Hair: Mara wears a largely transparent net top that leaves little of her upper body to imagination for much of the movie, yet her naughty bits are always obscured by either shadows or her long, strategically draped hair.
  • Going Native: In the end, Alex must learn to live with and like the Eloi. Not like he really has much of a choice after his machine self-destructs and he's stranded in the future.
  • Grew Beyond Their Programming: In 802,701, Vox not only claims to remember everything but is noticeably much more expressive, with a hint of contempt towards to his creators, than he lets on, compared to back in 2030.
  • A Handful for an Eye: In the final fight, Alexander breaks open a pipe on the time machine so that it sprays steam in the Über-Morlock's face.
  • Hive Caste System: The Morlocks have not only evolved to live underground and prey on the surface-dwelling Eloi, but also into at least two different castes, one of them the more muscular drones/warriors, and another one possessing greater cognitive abilities and psychic powers to control the other.
  • I Choose to Stay: Alex at the end. Though it's partly also because he can't go home again.
  • In the Future, Humans Will Be One Race: The Eloi, the surface-dwelling offshoot of modern humans in the future, all seem to be Ambiguously Brown (played by mixed race actors in many cases, appropriately enough).
    • Oddly enough, also averted by virtue of there also being Morlocks … in this future, humans from either species will be one race, but they're still two species.
  • Irony: Because Alex created the machine for the purpose of saving his fiancee, that's the one thing that he can't use it to do.note 
  • I Want My Jet Pack: While 2030 has some impressive technology, Alexander is disappointed that no one even tried to expand on his time travel technology.
  • Jitter Cam: Used briefly during the escape scene in the finale.
  • Lampshade Hanging: The Vox's remark that time travel is impossible; e.g. the sort of time travel from earlier adaptations of The Time Machine.
  • Living Relic: Vox survives 800,000 years, after which he's reduced to a few broken, barely functioning screens, and briefs Alex on what happened in all the time in between.
  • Lost in Imitation: Despite being directed by Wells' own great-grandson, this film ultimately seems to be a loose remake of the 1960 film, which itself was a somewhat loose adaptation of the novel. The ending credits outright admit it with the (buried) credit, "based on the screenplay by David Duncan," who was the writer of the 1960 version. Most tellingly, the film includes numerous elements from the 1960 film, even hitting most of the same story beats, but doesn't really include anything from the book unless it's via the 1960 film. For instance, the Detonation Moon disaster is not taken from anything in the novel, but it does fill the same plot function as World War III in the 1960 film. Likewise, Vox has no book counterpart, but he is clearly equivalent to the talking rings from the 1960 version. Also, Weena/Mara having a brother might have been borrowed from the 1978 TV version.
  • The Lost Lenore: The protagonist is now entirely motivated by the loss of his love Emma.
  • Mighty Whitey: The film (probably inadvertently) has this effect by the Eloi all being Ambiguously Brown with Alex being the lead, him rescuing them from the evil Morlocks who prey upon them, which they can't do (having been culled to stop any resistance). Sure enough, he's soon getting close with one of their women, Mara, and sacrifices his time machine to protect them, happily staying with the Eloi.
  • Mordor: Particularly the far, far, 635-million-year-far Bad Future where the Morlocks completely succeeded in enslaving the Eloi, but even in the nearer far future the "milder" underground Morlock colony is a pretty good example: it's dark, dank, and evokes a lot of creepy, morbid and hellish imagery (at least from the human/Eloi perspective).
  • The Morlocks: Well, duh. Here, however, they're made more powerful and sophisticated than in the novel and 1960 film, with intricate if primitive-looking underground machinery and distinct Eloi-hunting methods and weapons (such as ambushes from sand traps and poison blowdarts), and even have highly intelligent mind-control castes this time around.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Mara is very pretty and wears a virtually see-through top which shows her large breasts (barely covered by her long hair).
  • Musicalis Interruptus: In 2030 New York, when Alex cuts off Vox's singing of a selection from a musical it also cuts off the majestic background music.
  • My Brain Is Big: The Über-Morlock. Rather than have the usual huge head, his brain extended down the neck and lower back.
  • My Nayme Is: Filby is Philby.
  • Mythology Gag: Alexander first watches time progressing into the future by seeing clothes evolve on a mannequin, just like in the 1960's movie.
  • Named by the Adaptation: Alexander Hartdegen, the time traveler.
  • Nature vs. Technology: A Trope Codifier where Nature pulls double duties as Time Master against the protagonist, Alexander, preventing him from saving his love from dying. Later, as Alex attempts to seek answers in order to learn, resource exploitation on the Moon end up destroying it and with it, the the human civilization. After some time though, shown to be several thousands of years, what remains of humans, the Eloi, live in harmony with their surroundings if not for their antagonism by the Morlocks, who have evolved underground. Ultimately, Alexander repurposes his time machine as a bomb in order to destroy the Morlocks' threat to the Eloi.
  • Never My Fault: The mugger that ends up killing Emma is visibly shocked by the act, and has the gall to ask Alex "Why did you [resist]? It was only a ring!" when he was the one that was mugging two people that were in the middle of a wedding proposal, even demanding the ring even after they had willingly gave him everything else of value.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Alexander killing the Über-Morlock leaves the more feral Morlock without a leader, bringing about an apocalypse since the feral Morlock have nothing keeping them in check. Alexander fixes this by turning his time machine into a temporal bomb, wiping out the entire colony. It's not revealed what happened to the other colonies.
  • The Noseless: Most Morlocks have greatly receded noses that look just like nostrils opening straight into their faces, instead of upward from below. The effect is rather like nasal cavities on skulls, or like zombies whose noses decayed or were eaten away, which adds to the creep factor of their appearance. Their telepathic leader has a more "ancestrally human" nose though.
  • No Sense of Time: After killing the Uber-Morlock, Alexander travels all the way to the year 635,427,810. Apparently in that time, the Morlocks have run wild and enslaved the Eloi as a direct consequence of his actions. 635 million years is a huge amount of time—roughly equal to how long it took for protists to evolve into humans—making it doubtful that the Morlocks or Eloi would have persisted that long—especially since in the first place they evolved into separate species (or at least subspecies) from humans in the first "mere" 800,000 years.
  • Nubile Savage: Mara is certainly very pretty. Living a rough life with stone-age technology doesn't stop her from sporting perfect hair, flawless skin and a very flattering outfit which leaves almost nothing to the imagination.
  • Our Time Travel Is Different: The Video Cassette variety, as with the novel and the 1960 version.
  • Ontological Inertia: No matter what Alex tries, his fiancée's death cannot be changed.
  • Perfect Pacifist People: Arguably, the Eloi are these, though deconstructed since it makes them easy prey for the Morlocks. The 1960 version had an anti-war sentiment that was lost in this version, shown when an Eloi male says "It is all clear," a phrase which (it is implied ) has become part of the Eloi's genetic memory. In THIS version, however, the Eloi are pacifists because of the Über-Morlock's "psychic filter," which makes them forget about their dead and keeps them pacifistic. (Warning: this may have gotten lost in the cutting-room.) It's also mentioned that any Eloi who fights back simply are the one the Morlocks come for first. Which is part of why the Eloi have been beaten down into submission and completely refuse to fight back.
  • Pet the Dog: The Über-Morlock catches a glowing cave-fish and releases it back into its pool unharmed.
  • Plot Hole: The film establishes there are no temporal paradoxes, Alex cannot prevent Emma's death. Any attempt to alter history simply results in her getting killed by another unforeseen event. She was his reason for building the time machine. note  The film later overlooks this fact, when the protagonist later travels into a Bad Future where the Morlocks have ravaged the Eloi valley. He goes back and turns his machine into a "temporal bomb" to kill all of them. Now that future presumably no longer exists, yet Alex is still around. It suggests Alex maybe a Cosmic Plaything, but it's never explained.
    • Although it could simply be common time-travel fiction logic: you cannot change the past, but you CAN change the future.
  • Prime Timeline: enforced by the "You Can't Fight Fate" situation mentioned in the previous trope heading. All roads lead back to Emma's death.
  • Promoted to Love Interest: The film goes further than the older movie adaptation: not only was Weena replaced with a love interest named Mara and the Eloi made even less childlike, but the Time Traveler was given an entire backstory of building the machine as a way to save his girlfriend from being killed by a mugger.
  • Punch! Punch! Punch! Uh Oh...: The Über-Morlock effortlessly shrugs off Alexander's punches.
  • Psychic Dreams for Everyone: Literally. Though, as it turns out, it's a side effect of the aforementioned psychic filter.
  • Ragnarök Proofing:
    • Averted with Earth in general. After the lunar disaster, any traces of civilization were pretty much obliterated over almost a million years.
    • Played straight with the photonic library computer. His main processing unit survives orbital bombardment, the resulting thousands of centuries of neglect, and somehow ends up underground on top of that. He even still has numerous functioning projection screens. He mentions he's the last remaining Vox, because the rest of the library, including the original books, is fossilized or worse. It also only turns on when someone is nearby, so keeping the batteries running indefinitely.
    • Also played straight with US structures. According to the now-defunct official website, those cliffs that the Eloi use to build their homes are actually old New York skyscrapers.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Given to the hero by the villain of all people.
    Alex: This is a perversion of every natural law!
    Über-Morlock: (strangles Alex) And what is time travel?! But your pathetic attempt to control the entire world around you!
  • Recursive Canon: Vox begins telling Alex about H. G. Wells' novel The Time Machine and the 1960 film adaptation directed by George Pal in the library in 2030.
  • Released to Elsewhere: A strange case here: when Hartdegen asks Mara about her parents, she says only that "They have gone from this place", which Hartdegen interprets as a gentle euphemism for death. However, thanks to the manipulations of the Über-Morlock making people forget, it's possible that she genuinely does not know or remember what happens to the Eloi the Morlocks harvest.
  • Remake Cameo: Besides the 1960 The Time Machine, there had been two made-for-television movies based on H. G. Wells' novella and Alan Young is the only actor from any of the other three The Time Machine incarnations to appear.
  • Ridiculously Human Robots: Vox, the photonic library computer. He speaks slowly to get his point across to Alexander, and even gets visibly irritated at what he regards as stupid questions, when a real computer would simply and happily attempt to answer any of his inquiries regardless of what was asked. This means that for whatever reason his creators gave him the same flaws as a human librarian would have, even though there was no reason for it and would actually hinder his performance as a library computer. On the other hand, Vox is described in the commentary as effectively being an Internet Search Engine with a Personality. Now imagine if you were a sentient compendium of all human knowledge, whose entire reason for existence was to be asked the same inane questions by people, over and over again? Can you really blame Vox for having developed into a passive-aggressive Deadpan Snarker to cope with the monotony? When he's turned on in the distant future, he's picked up even more quirks, being effectively a library computer without a library.
  • Ripple-Effect-Proof Memory: Alex changes history, but doesn't change his memory of history, even though his original impetus for using the time machine was altered when he first used it.
  • Ruins of the Modern Age: In the year 802701, the library that the protagonist previously visited 20 Minutes into the Future has deteriorated quite a bit, although the A.I. is still active. Also, Word of God is that the cliffs used by the Eloi to build their villages are remains of New York skyscrapers, apparently able to withstand 800,000 years of erosion and an Ice Age but covered in dirt.
  • Science Is Bad: "We went too far." The irony is that Alex has drawings in his lab that perfectly mirror the 2030's New York. Despite the fact that Alex is a visionary, it was ultimately men like him that doomed the world.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Skeptic No Longer: After living hundreds of thousands of years and happening to run into the same yokel who was babbling about impossible time travel, Vox seems to have accepted that Alex was telling the truth on that count. Not much else is made of it, as both have bigger concerns at this point.
  • Spinning Clock Hands: The first sign Alex is traveling into the past is when the hands on his collection of pocket watches slow down, then reverse, speeding up as he travels further back.
  • Squishy Wizard: Averted as anyone who expected the Über-Morlock to be physically weak because his caste had focused on developing their psychic powers was in for a surprise.
  • Stable Time Loop: A heart-wrenching example. Alex can't stop Emma from dying, because her dying is the catalyst of him building his time machine, so time will come up with a way to kill her so that he has to go invent the time machine, trapping himself in the loop.
  • Steampunk: The machine itself is a stunningly-designed example (and even emits steam at one point). Then there's possibly any number of other devices in Alex' lab, as well as more realistic cases like the new steam car driving around in the streets.
  • Temporal Paradox: In the climax, Alex travels into a Bad Future where the Morlocks have ravaged the Eloi valley. He goes back and turns his time machine into a bomb to kill all of them. Now that future presumably no longer exists, yet Alex is still around.
  • Time Is Dangerous: The titular device creates a spherical bubble to protect the occupant. Reach outside, that protection no long applies. Alex hurts, or rather rapid-ages, his hand when he instinctively grabs at an item he dropped. The Über-Morlock, while wrestling with him on the machine, ends up hanging outside the bubble and ages into dust. Logically, any attempt to reach outside the bubble should have violently scattered their atoms across dozens of years of history, or cut the Über-Morlock's hands off when Alex started going forward, but the Rapid Aging looked cooler, presumably.
  • Too Dumb to Live: In 2030, someone apparently thought using nukes on the moon to make caves for future habitats was a good idea. Cue, a few years later, Apocalypse How. Even if it had worked, they'd have ended up with a radioactive pit.
  • Tragic Time Traveler: Physician Alexander Hartdegen creates a time machine in order to save his fiancée from being killed by a mugger. He succeeds... but then she still ends up dying by being run over by an horse carriage. Alex considers the possibility that he could try multiple times to save her, only for her to die in another, unforeseen way. To add insult to injury, the Uber-Morlock explains that this is because she was the basis for him creating the time machine, ergo, if he ended up saving her, then he wouldn't have the need to build the time machine, and the edited past would be erased.
  • 20 Minutes into the Future: Alex stops off in the 2030s on his way to 802,701.
  • Undeathly Pallor: The Morlocks, though not undead, have become pale from living underground and fear the light.
  • Underground City: The Morlock colony, whose only aboveground entrances are in the form of scary spiky skull-shaped bases. It's a veritable warren of dark, roughly-hewn tunnels and caverns with sparse and very "primitive"-looking machinery (and gruesome sharp tools presumably used for Eloi-butchering). Its great extent is implied when the glowing fallout from the time machine's final explosion lights up the entire underground base to the point of filtering aboveground, where Alex and all the Eloi can see it.
  • Vapor Wear: Mara wears a practically see-through shirt in much of her screentime which very clearly outlines her breasts, but it's partly obscured by her long hair.
  • Villain Has a Point: The Über-Morlock may control the monstrous-looking Morlocks preying on the more conventionally human Eloi, but he comes off as the smartest character in the film and he logically explains why Alexander can't prevent Emma's death (his entire motive for time-traveling in the first place), and after giving him the answer, permits him to leave without a fight. In fact, it's Alexander who attacks him first. Of course, the fact that he's an elitist justifying eugenics, cannibalism, and rape takes some sympathy points from him.
  • Voodoo Shark: In the original film, it's never explained how the time traveller can understand what people are saying 800,000 years into the future. (In the novel, he had to learn the Eloi's language, but film versions don't seem to have the time for that.) This film does try to explain it by saying that the people speak a different language and that the 'stone language', or English, they learned from comes from broken signs and whatnot in Manhattan. Unfortunately that just raises questions on the logistics of how since a) only a tiny portion of all English vocabulary would be found on signs; b) knowing just the words won't help you in learning the language, you also need to know grammar, structure, etc. to form sentences. However, Mara does mention in dialogue that she was taught English, the "Stones" merely serve as learning aids as to what the letters look like.
  • What the Hell, Hero?:
    • Four years after Emma's death, Philby tells Alex about how his frequent visits to Alex lessened until he stopped coming completely, and asks him if he even noticed.
    • The mugger who accidentally shoots and kills Emma actually berates Alex for being unwilling to give up Emma's engagement ring, which is really pretty rich.
    • After the Morlocks capture Mara, Alex calls out the tribe leader for wishing to abandon her and all other captured Eloi.
  • Who Wants to Live Forever?: Vox, the photonic library computer AI from 2030, manages to survive the apocalypse in an above-ground building which presumably has absolutely no protection from that sort of thing. His power and memory unit last literally hundreds of thousands of years. The fact that he remembers everything doesn't help.. It leads to a bit of Pet the Dog when he's given the opportunity to do the one thing he wants to do: teach. As a handwave, he mentions he's the only Vox left, and there's only one corridor of the entire library shown to be intact.
  • The World Is Just Awesome: Goes into full effect when Alex travels forward for the first time, making the coming destruction all the more tragic.
  • Year Outside, Hour Inside: How the time machine time-travels; since it can only go forward or backward at variable speeds on the sole "time stream", akin to rewinding or fast-forwarding a tape, years can pass outside in a matter of seconds inside—sometimes as fast as half a billion years in a few seconds.
  • You Can't Fight Fate: Played straight and then possibly averted. Alex tries to save Emma but every time she gets killed. The Über-Morlock later explains that the time machine cannot change the past in a way that prevents it from being built in the first place. Later in the movie, Alex goes to a Bad Future where the Morlocks have wiped out the Eloi, and then he goes back in time and wipes out the Morlocks. Either this means he successfully averted that bad future, or in the intervening several million years, the Morlocks from other areas will invade and wipe out the Eloi.
  • You Can't Go Home Again: Alex is stuck in 802701 after he rigs his machine to destroy all the Morlocks and the Bad Future they unleash.
  • Young Future Famous People: Referenced. Alex is in touch with a bright young man from a Swiss patent office, one Mr. Einstein.


Video Example(s):


From 1899 to 2030

Alexander Hartdegen travels forward over 130 years.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (8 votes)

Example of:

Main / TimeMachine

Media sources: