Just to be completely upfront about this movie, it has a staggeringly low 12% rating on Rotten Tomatoes: http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/timeline/ so you know going into it that nobody liked it but me.
Truthfully, my whole family thinks it’s WAY better than that. Of course, most of us are suckers for anything medieval. This movie derives from the book Timeline, by Michael Crichton (of Jurassic Park fame). While it’s been a long time since I actually read the book, I enjoyed the movie more, mostly because the plot is actually a bit less intricate, and the motivations of the various characters are clearer than in the movie. In a nutshell, the movie is about a bunch of archaeologists who are excavating a site in France–funded by an American corporation they don’t know much about–who end up being effectively faxed to the middle ages by that same corporation. Seriously, what could be better?
Okay, to the review:
First off: Gerard Butler. This is one of his first movies, and he is adorable in it. He is the main ‘hero’ character, who does the right thing for the right reasons and ends up getting the most out of the time traveling back to medieval France.
Secondly: David Thewlis. He plays the overzealous and slightly evil owner of the company that has been experimenting with time travel. Unfortunately, as the body count rises, he falls apart–and does it very well.
The plot: It hangs together! This isn’t one of those movies (Star Trek: Into Darkness) where you walk out having been taken on a fantastic ride only to realize afterwards that none of it makes any sense. At all.
So, having explained how the plot hangs together, there’s a bunch here that makes no sense, beginning with Gerard Butler falling in love with this woman basically sight unseen. He’s a romantic, we get that, and was in love with her BEFORE he met her, but … Fortunately, we do get that he’s so in love with the Middle Ages that he’s willing to give up the 21st century for it. And die young. That’s Michael Crichton, not the movie writers, so you can’t blame this movie for his ending. One part of the book that worked better.
The archaeology/science is really bad. To start, you’re not going to get good dating on a pair of 21st century glasses, no matter how long they’ve been sitting in a unopened medieval chamber. For carbon dating you need … carbon, amazingly enough. And you’re certainly not going to do it in a 1/2 hour in a makeshift lab. The acting in that scene is really bad too.
And the faxing … it’s basically the transporter platform in Star Trek but with the element of time thrown in. Yeah, you have to suspend disbelief. Again, Michael Crichton’s fault.
“Oh my God” “Oh my God” “Oh my God”. Once you hear the main characters say this once, and then twice, and then for the thirty-sixth time, you know that the script needs a major overhaul. The fact that the actors are able to deliver their lines with anything resembling aplomb is a credit to them.
But hey–I’d watch the movie again. Gerard Butler. Enough said.