Thursday, 15 April 2010
The Time Machine by H.G.Wells
This review is part of the read the book watch the movie challenge.
I should begin by saying that I did not enjoy this book very much. I’m not quite sure what I was expecting but it certainly wasn’t what I got. It is with no small sense of relief that I did not spend £8 on this tiny book but rather borrowed it from my local library.
The story is set in Victorian London with the Time Traveller (we never discover his real name) explaining to a small gathering of close professional friends that he has built a machine that can travel through time. Understandably enough no-one believes a word of it and so the Time Traveller sets off into the distant future where he discovers Humanity has developed into two very distinct sub-species; the surface dwelling, naive and peaceful Eloi and the underground dwelling, ape-like, primitive Morlocks. The Time Traveller struggles to understand how these two distinct groups came into existence and their relationship to each other and faces a life and death struggle of his own when the Morlocks steal his machine leaving him stranded in the future.
Reading books like these serve as a very useful reminder as to why I love more contemporary fiction; no frilly language.
I have no idea why, perhaps value for money, perhaps elitism, perhaps it was just the way it was done but my God books written in 19th century England are needlessly complex and boring!
The motto amongst writers in those days must have been ‘why write something in 20 words when you can use 300?’ I do realise however that this is a personal thing, if you enjoy reading prose from the 19th century then feel free to ignore this part of the review and to not let it put you off the book!
I can’t appreciate or condone the writing style and as such reading the story becomes a chore rather than a pleasure. Even ignoring the way it is written I think the story was improved upon in the film version. The story in the book is dull and brutal, the characters are two dimensional and the violence readily used by the Time Traveller doesn’t seem in keeping with the grand adventure of time travel. The Time Traveller seems to derive extreme pleasure from murdering Morlocks by beating them to death with an iron bar despite the fact they never actually physically harm him, despite having plenty of opportunity to do so. The Eloi are an irritation more than anything else and when a female Eloi named Weena attaches herself to the Time Traveller and is eventually killed in a forest fire that he started he doesn’t appear to care. All in all a detestable man I did not sympathise with.
Despite not enjoying it there were one or two moments in the book which I enjoyed, in some parts it was even exciting and considering Wells wrote the book in 1895 the story is impressively imaginative but i’m afraid any exciting moments were drowned in pages upon pages of self-reflection and prose which sent me to sleep.
Some of you may be aware there has been more than one film version of H.G Wells ‘The Time Machine’ made. I have chosen the 1960 version starring Rod Taylor and Yvette Mimieux because I remember seeing it as a child and thinking it was brilliant.
I remember absolutely loving this film as a child. I thought the special effects were brilliant and the Morlocks frightened the life out of me (in a good way) of course now I’m older I’m slightly (ok, alot) more critical but I still enjoyed the trip down memory lane.
Although I appreciate the film was made in 1960 the special effects are really quite laughable (in one scene when the time traveller is grappling with a Morlock you can clearly see the blue paint rub off on his hands) there is some terrible acting in the film. One actress in particular named Yvette Mimieux portrayed an Eloi female, who grows close to the Time Traveller, in a singularly uninspirational and unconvincing manner. I’m sure Mimieux was trying to portray her character as being naive and child-like but due to poor acting she just came across as simple-minded. The lights were on but nobody was home.
The Time Traveller himself has a terribly patronising, misogynistic attitude towards the Eloi and particularly the vague, beautiful Weena however his character is infinitely more likeable in the film than the book.
The film added many plot elements to the story which was predictable considering the book was only 90 pages long but these improve on the story in my opinion although some of them are rather ludicrous. (in one scene the time traveller witnesses a nuclear explosion over London. The whole city is destroyed around him in fire from the bomb but he escapes remarkably unscathed)
The film is most definitely worth a viewing even if it is only to laugh at the special effects but personally I wouldn’t recommend the book.
Final verdict; 2/5 for the book 3/5 for the film