or some reason people in "Timeline" are
constantly talking over each other. I'm not sure if director Richard Donner
("Lethal Weapon") planned this, but the end result is irritating as
hell. In a lot of ways, it reminded me of the TV show "Southpark",
where whenever characters are talking at once they are actually only saying
"Rabble rabble rabble" over and over to simulate "overlapping
dialogue". Also, everyone in "Timeline" seems to be constantly agitated or hyper,
resulting in actors spitting out their lines with some insane urgency.
Paul Walker ("2
Fast 2 Furious") -- aka The Worst Actor to Attain Stardom Since Keanu
Reeves -- plays Chris Johnston, some sort of slacker whose father is archaeologist
Billy Connolly. Although why Connolly's Scottish accent is so thick as to be
almost impossible to understand and Chris has no accent at all is a bit of a
mystery. Almost as big a mystery as why Walker is a viable movie star, but
that's neither here nor there. In any case, after Connolly gets
"faxed" 600 years into the past by a Shady Corporation, Chris and a
group of his dad's students must go back in time to get him.
The retrieval team includes easily excitable Kate (Frances
hopeless romantic Marek (Gerard Butler, "Reign
of Fire"), and the Shady Corporation's gunman, Gordon (Neal McDonough).
Our heroes end up in the middle of the 100 Year War between the English and the
French, still fighting and will be, as the name implies, for 100 years.
(Remember, this was back when the French Army still fought wars to win.) Soon
everything goes wrong, including the destruction of the time machine in the
present. If that wasn't bad enough, time is running out, and soon the wormhole
that sent our heroes into the past will disappear forever.
This is where I, as your humble movie reviewer, must inject
the caveat: "It all sounds a lot better than it is." Which is the case
with "Timeline", a disaster of a film. Not only is the whole time
travel premise nothing more than a gimmick -- the film explains it in a matter
of minutes by way of a Shady CEO who literally rushes the characters through
the "explanations". I can only imagine that the novel by Michael
Crichton explains the Shady Corporation's explorations in time travel a lot
better than just "putting FedEx out of business". And I can only
imagine that just about any other writers could have fashioned a more coherent sense
of technology besides throwing out nonsensical scientific-y words like
"coils" and "wormholes".
A miscalculation with "Timeline" is stuffing the
movie with too many front-and-center characters -- i.e. there isn't just two or three
main characters, there seems to be four or six, each with their own reasons
for existing. Obviously the problem with this is that screentime needs to be
shared, meaning the movie is constantly being diverted to follow one main
character's "arc" while the rest gets to play with their thumbs. The
smarter choice would have been to roll Marek and Chris into one, and perform the
same operation with Lady Claire and Kate. This may also explain why the movie is
almost two hours long, although you wouldn't know it by the lack of story
For most of its running time, "Timeline" doesn't
really put its own premise to very good use. You have college-educated people
from the 21st century running around in Medieval Europe, but these
guys mind as well be local peasants. At the most, their modernity results in
Kate being very assertive, although considering that Lady Claire (Anna Friel) is
also pretty spunky, it sort of negates Kate's supposedly anachronistic "girl power". In one
scene, Chris mentions that the time travelers have 600 years of knowledge on the
locals, but you wouldn't know it from their actions. In fact, the only point in
making the characters time travelers is that they sort of know the layout of the
fighting area because they were unearthing it at the beginning of the movie.
The film's only real entertainment value comes toward the
end, when the French and English engage in a nighttime battle around a castle.
It's the movie's only set piece and it's quite a doozy, and might just be the
only reason to watch this terrible bore of a movie. It's also quite telling that during all
this, the "modern" characters either show up only for brief cameos or
have nothing to do with the sequence entirely. That means no more listening to
Kate acting like a speed freak with ants in her pants or watching poor surfer
boy Paul Walker trying mightily to exert more charisma than a tree branch.
All of the above makes one wonder if "Timeline"
wouldn't have been a pretty good movie if only there wasn't that whole time
travel gag thrown in. It was much more interesting to watch
the French and English battle it out, and the interplay between English bad guy
Michael Sheen ("Underworld") and his French rival
is quite spirited, mostly thanks to Sheen's charisma. Too bad all those other people from the 21st
century had to show up and ruin everything.