Saturday, October 5, 2013

Let the Medieval Times begin!

'Timeline.' A movie about a bunch of nerds going back in time to a battle. If that premise doesn't set your loins on fire, don't bother reading further.

I had to look this one up to get proof it came out in 2003. Everything about it - and I mean EVERYTHING - smacks of 1998. It feels like 'Sphere' and "Armageddon' got drunk, fucked, got pregnant, went through with it and birthed out this mess.

IF ONLY Janeane Garofalo had shown up in this! I remember getting a copy of this book for like 50 cents at a used bookstore back east for some summer reading, back in the day when I would enjoy a solid Michael Crichton or Stephen King on the crapper. As with all pleasurably preposterous Crichton stories, this one had some SCIENCE in it that somehow he made you believe was possible, because, who doesn't want to believe that you can go into a time machine and go back to Ye Oldene Daze of France, where everyone smelt of elderberries? Like, duh.

The SCIENCE in this story has to do with a wormhole that takes you to rural France in 1357 (which I personally think is a waste of an Einstein-Rosen Bridge. You have a wormhole and it takes you there? Why couldn't it take you to the early 1930s so you could stop Hitler? Or to a million years in the future on Kepler, so you could party with aliens?). I can't really remember how it all went in the book, so I'll just stick to the movie here, wherein Bill Gates, sporting a sweater vest, runs a covert facility where they spend a jillion dollars to go back and forth to rural France by using a time machine built out of mirrors. In 1357. Because, again, that is DEFINITELY where you want your wormhole to go.

After about twenty minutes into this movie, I started to feel like Alex here. Making it through actually was like living through the Hundred Years' War, which is what the nerds spent the bulk of the movie running around in. I know there was some plot involved, and finding a tunnel, and the French and the English, but really, who gives a fuck. Movies like this (see 'Stargate,' 'Deep Blue Sea,' 'The Core,' 'Deep Impact,' etc etc etc etc etc) are all about the running and the screaming, and scientists talking frantically over each other about SCIENCE, and ten minutes of blatantly expository dialogue in the beginning, including this repeated question: "Wait, are you telling me that [Insert ludicrous premise here]?!" (Except that 'Stargate' is awesome, apologies.)

In these movies, everyone accepts the SCIENCE immediately, so the movie can hustle along. Bill Gates tells the nerds he's going to fax them to 1357 and they're all, like, "OK," even though the Well-Built Female Hardcore Archaeologist wonders, "Do we look like quantum wormhole specialists?" I have an answer for that: Yes. Yes, you totally do.

Known pussy marauder Gerard Butler only gets his shirt off once in 'Timeline,' and I bet it was a clause in his contract. The rest of the time he runs around like everyone else in medieval togs that look like they came from a local church production of 'Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.' Money back, please! Frankly, I wouldn't have minded if Paul Walker got his kit off too, but no joy. Looking especially postmormon, he does an excellent job of not convincing anybody that he's not from southern California, especially when he wanders into a scene clearly wearing what he had on when he came on-set that day: a skater sweatshirt, Dickies, and Chuck Taylors. It makes it all the more believable that his dad is a respected Irish archaeologist!

So if we're talking 1998 (again, I refuse to believe this movie was made in 2003), we need the usual suspects for an ensemble movie about SCIENCE:

In the 90s Gerard Butler's hair was luscious! I might even go so far as to say he's hearkening back to the glory days of the Theatre Nerd from 'Sleeping With the Enemy.' He plays the Well-Built Male Hardcore Archaeologist who's been working on this dig in France for years and yet doesn't even know how to say a single word in French. He is super-psyched to go back in time and practice chivalry, the rules of which he immediately violates when he macs on the Hot Tomboy Royal Lady he meets.

Paul Walker is a mayo sandwich with limp iceberg lettuce and Kraft Singles on stale Wonderbread, but he is also hot, and that is SCIENCE. He plays the Fish Out Of Water who goes back in time because a)he's worried about his dad and b)the Well-Built Female Hardcore Archaeologist is also going back in time, and he wants to get with that. His dudebro accent is so thick it's almost impossible to understand what he says, and yet everybody in 1357 France seems to have no problem with it.

Frances O'Connor is the Well-Built Female Hardcore Archaeologist, also sporting an unintelligible accent (why, in these movies, can't English actors just use their own accents? We won't mind, we promise.). It's lucky we see she is a rock climber, because she's going to use that skill during critical beats in the movie, which is how all of these one-dimensional character stereotypes operate in movies about SCIENCE.

Billy Connolly is the Wise Old Dude the nerds have to save from the battle. He's actually not very wise at all in this movie and just kind of meanders around being irritating. I wouldn't have included him, except there has to be an older person in the group to make the younger people look hotter.

Ethan Embry is the Hip Nerdy Scientist, who usually comes along in order to drop witty quips about SCIENCE and generally bumble along, but in this movie he stays in modern times and hangs out with Bill Gates. Plus, it's his job to ask repeatedly, "Wait, are you telling me that [Insert ludicrous premise here]?!" Boooo-riiiing. However, he gets a pass from me and should from you as well, because, 'Empire Records.'

Same goes for Anna Friel, who plays the Hot Tomboy Royal Lady. 'Pushing Daisies,' 'nuff said.

There are a few other disposable people, including the lousiest Marine ever and his boss Bill Gates, but we don't care about them. There's a lot of running and screaming, as I pointed out, and, like, battling, and it all looks boring because this movie was shot in Canadia. In the end, Gerard Butler decides to stay in 1357 with the Hot Tomboy Royal Lady, because he prefers not having indoor plumbing and antibiotics, and the three remaining stereotypes come back to modern times - but not before switching places with Bill Gates, who's trying to sabotage his own machine because of some random plot point. Bill Gates gets his comeuppance by showing up in 1357 just in time to get pwned with a broadsword. Everyone lives happily ever after, except for the people who died horribly. Ultimately, the moral question this movie poses is: WWBaTD?

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