Review: Timeline

Published 11 years ago by , Updated February 9th, 2012 at 5:11 pm,

By Vic Holtreman

(Yes, that’s 0 stars)

Short version: Don’t waste your time on this pitiful excuse for a time travel movie that is terrible in every way: acting, dialogue, music, and plot.

If at some point over the last few days you’ve done something that you might be feeling guilty about… something particularly mean and nasty…. bad enough that you feel you deserve to be punished in some way…

Then I highly recommend you rent Timeline and force yourself to sit through the entire thing.

I read the book by Michael Crichton when it first came out and actually enjoyed it quite a bit since I’m a huge fan of time travel stories. The one stray thought I had as I read the book, and I remember this quite clearly, was that I felt like I was reading a story that was not written as a novel, but written as a novelization of a movie. For some reason it just felt like he wrote this specifically for the big screen. Unfortunately, if that was his intent, it has been sadly served by this turkey.

The premise is that a Bill Gates kind of guy has tried to create a matter transporter (“which will put Fed-Ex out of business”) but instead has inadvertantly created a time machine. They have no control over the time or place, which due to some random wormhole, has made the only possible destination 14th century France. People go back, get trapped, must be rescued, yadda yadda yadda.

An archaelogist (Billy Connolly, completely wasted here) has been getting information from this Bill Gates character concerning a specific dig site. Information so detailed that ol’ Billy suspects there’s something fishy going on and heads to the lab to investigate. Meanwhile Connolly’s son (Paul Walker, who is… well, I’ll get to that later) who is completely uninterested in things archaeological happens to be visiting. Walker is infatuated with a young digger (Frances O’Connor) to the point of distraction.

So. Dad disappears, son gets all fired up, and the whole archaeological team is invited to go to the secret lab. BTW, for some reason at this dig site, a physicist is part of the team. No, I don’t know why either.

They must go back, find dad, and bring him back. Now considering the character of the guy in charge of the company, I’m not really clear as to why this was so imperative to him, unless this multi-billionare (one assumes) was cowed by one phone call by Walker.

It was obvious this movie was a stinker from the first 5 minutes, I kid you not. Richard Donner directed this, and I have to say the man is hit or miss as far as the movies he’s made. I wanted to blame this movie on the editing, but that’s just one of the many things wrong here. The editing, especially during the first 15 minutes or so was so choppy that I wasn’t really clear on what was going on. The movie cuts between present day (in the lab) and the 14th century, and when it does it’s just plain jarring.

The dialogue is awful, especially as delivered by Paul Walker. How in the heck he was chosen for this film, and why he’s even given star billing when he’s on screen so little time is beyond me. I kept waiting for this to turn into one of those low-brow teen comedies… that’s what Walker brought to this movie. I mean who wrote this thing? (Here’s a bad omen for Ocean’s 12: one of the co-writers of Timeline wrote the screenplay for the upcoming presumed blockbuster.)

The gang has less than 6 hours to find and retrieve Connolly, they’re captured, go through all kinds of trials, and Walker’s character’s main fixation is on the girl. What happened to the heirarchy of “life in danger, sex can wait”? Man….

The music was lame, which made what were supposed to be exciting scenes fall flat. Never have I been so bored by large scale battles. Never. Did I mention this was boring?

What else… an ex-Marine acting like a self-serving wuss, the other ex-marines brought to protect the poor defenseless travelers are done in within minutes of arrival, people who are historians letting their feelings and self-preservation overrule the possibility of totally screwing up the timeline, etc.

The plot holes are really just too numerous to mention. They run the gamut from coincidences beyond belief, down to the last second timing, and here is one of my favorites: They all wear a tiny pendent on a necklace which is their only method of getting back. Now I ask you, if you had something which your life depended upon, would you wear this on the outside of all your clothing or would you tuck it under everything and have it hanging against your chest? Of course! You’d wear it on the outside where it could be lost, stolen, grabbed from your neck, or whatever.

It hurts my head to even write this review because it means I have to think about the movie again.

You have been warned.

Our Rating:

0 out of 5

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  1. I also really enjoyed the book, so was really looking forward to seeing this when it came out. I have to agree with your review; I knew the story, and I was confused at points.

    One annoyance I have to point out; where were the English subtitles when the characters started speaking French? I can speak a little, luckily, so was translating for my sisters – who I dragged to the movie with me. I still owe them for that one!

  2. I can only assume that what the French were saying was irrelevant. As is the case today. ;-)


  3. I never saw that one. It didn’t look very good, even in the trailers or previews.

    As you said, Vic, most of Crichton’s books seem to have been written with a movie adaptation in mind. The problem is, most of the movie adaptations have sucked. Even Jurassic Park was a huge disappointment for me, since it deviated significantly from the book, which I enjoyed. Some of the worst movies in recent memory (Congo, Sphere, The 13th Warrior) have been based on Crichton’s books. Ironically, one of his biggest successes is something that wasn’t based directly on a book he wrote: ER.


  4. Ocean’s 12?!?!?! Ocean’s 11 didn’t inspire me (either version) and I could care a less to see George Clooney walking around playing the same schmaltzy, smug, know it all role he plays in every movie. Why does he keep getting movie roles?

    Sorry about Timeline, Vic. I’ll be sure to avoid it by a few miles. I never had any intention of seeing it anyway, something about the previews had “tanker” written all over it. You send a bunch of teenagers time-traveling to the past… NO! STOP THERE! Only the pre-pubescent Disney crowd would have fallen for that trap.

  5. Brian, don’t forget The Andromeda Strain. I never read the book, but I remember enjoying the film.


  6. Zipper, yeah, it was pretty painful to watch. I’m always stunned at how bad a movie can be. The thing about the book is that it wasn’t “time traveling teenagers”. :-(

    I actually liked the remake of Ocean’s 11, but it’s hard to catch lightning in a bottle the second time.


  7. I agree. Please… just read the read.