For this month’s next review for Genre Grandeur – Time Travel Movies, here’s a review of Time After Time (1979) by SG Liput of Rhyme and Reason
Next month’s Genre has been chosen by Abbi of Abbiosbiston.com We will be reviewing our favorite Alternate Love Story movies. In order to get a better idea as to what this genre might include, check out this post by Abbi from last year. Please get me your submissions by the 25th of November by sending them to firstname.lastname@example.org Try to think out of the box! Great choice Abbi!
Let’s see what SG thought of this movie:
Time after Time (1979)
A time machine made in the past
Is H.G. Wells’ work unsurpassed.
He learns that a friend
Has a murderous trend
And stole the machine when harassed.
Wells follows him forward in time,
The year 1979,
Which sadly is not
The ideal he had thought
With poverty, violence, and crime.
Though lost, out of time, out of place,
He’s helped by a beautiful face,
For here in this year
For this past pioneer,
One woman is quick to embrace.
But still there’s a killer about
With wicked intentions, no doubt.
While Wells holds the key
To the time machine, he
Knows romance and time can run out.
MPAA rating: PG (probably ought to be PG-13)
While many films have toyed with the idea of a writer’s experiences informing their work, most such movies try to keep it realistic (Becoming Jane, Shakespeare in Love). However, with the likes of a visionary such as H. G. Wells, placing him within his own story demands science fiction, and Time after Time delivers just what Wells’ The Time Machine did. Wells himself (Malcolm McDowall) takes the place of his unnamed time traveler protagonist.
The film begins more like a horror film, with a first-person view of Jack the Ripper, as he seduces, corners, and guts a prostitute in a foggy alley in Victorian London. Then, we shift to the studious Wells as he introduces his time machine to a group of colleagues in the same way as in the book and spouts his real-life opinions on socialism and eventual, inevitable utopia. Suddenly, he learns that one of his friends is the murderer, and his time machine is stolen from under him, ushering a madman (David Warner) into the future and leaving Wells no choice but to follow him to 1979.
The setup alone is brilliant, placing two contemporary historical figures in a sci-fi scenario ripe for fish-out-of-water comedy and cat-and-mouse tension. McDowall, in particular, is spot-on as he roams the streets of “modern-day” San Francisco with his antiquated suit, crisp diction, and sincere gentlemanly reserve. Up to that point, McDowall had been known as a villain, due to his infamous role in A Clockwork Orange, but he made the most of this heroic opportunity. Likewise, Warner as Jack is quite the edgy predator, feeling right at home in our contemporary world of sex and violence, though I was grateful that his brutal moments took place largely off-screen.
Of course, these two out-of-time adversaries aren’t quite enough to carry the picture. Enter Amy Robbins, played by Mary Steenburgen in only her second film role and long before she played another time traveler’s love interest in Back to the Future Part III. As the liberated woman that Wells had always predicted (along with free love), she’s quite bold in her pursuit of Wells, and as their romance deepens, it’s not hard to recognize the genuine attraction that led to the actors’ marriage the following year. All three of the leads elevate the already clever premise, fusing the romantic, comedic, and thriller elements into a pleasing whole.
Time after Time was the directorial debut of writer Nicholas Meyer, who would go on to direct two Star Trek films (The Wrath of Khan and The Undiscovered Country, the latter also with Warner) and co-write the time travel installment Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, in which he utilized some of the material he was forced to leave out of Time after Time. Having listened to the commentary, I was amused at how pleased he was with his script and how many of his own missteps as a budding filmmaker he pointed out. The special effects are dated and there are moments that might have been improved and clarified with a more experienced director, but for a first-time effort, Meyer outdid himself with a layered but fun genre piece that gets better with every viewing, one worth watching time after time.
Best line: (Wells) “Every age is the same. It’s only love that makes any of them bearable.”
© 2015 S. G. Liput