@LowBitLovecraft     Morgopolis Studios                                                 Good Stuff! About

Friday, June 10, 2011

The Time Machine

Last month I bitched about The Time Machine (2002), mostly because it transformed from a smart, personal story to, "Watch out, gang! Morlocks!"

I picked up an old copy of H.G. Well's original novel (for twenty-five cents. On a related note I just bought ten pounds of bone-in ham for ten bucks. Go me) because I was curious how the source material compared to the 2002 and 1960 movies.

It was a real eye-opener.
I learned two things:

  1. The novel is always better than the movie.
  2. What H.G. Wells wrote and what people interpreted from his story are two totally different things.

This book was a fucked up read.

You see, in the movies we have a hero who travels 800,000 years through time, fights off the nocturnal Morlocks and saves his future-human people, the Eloi.

Rod Taylor heroically choking a Morlock. To death.

But in the book we don't have a hero. Just a man.
And you know he's just a man because by the end of the book he doesn't save anyone. He can only watch with a scientist's fascination as the Eloi live out meaningless lives and are periodically scooped up to be devoured by the Morlocks.

Speaking of the Eloi, in the 1960's film they're a bunch of mentally challenged white people who talk and act like they belong in a cult somewhere out in the middle of Nevada.

(And they speak perfect English. The language of the future).

In the 2002 film they're a bunch of brown people who just act like ordinary dudes with funny outfits.

(They also speak perfect English, by the way. There's nothing more static than a spoken language, right?)

But in the book? The Eloi were these diminuitive, almost fey, creatures with light voices, simple minds, their own language, and little concern for anything further than three minutes into the future. If they resembled anything, they were children, and that made the book a thousand times more horrifying. In it, the Time Traveller was the only real adult in the entire world. He was the only one with any power to do anything.

And here's the thing: He doesn't do anything.

In fact, he makes it worse:

One of the Eloi named Weena gets attached to him, sticking flowers in his pockets and holding his hand whenever it's offered, so he takes her along on his expeditions into the wilderness. The Time Traveller, being an idiot, gets lost in the woods at night and has to use matches to fend off the photosensitive Morlocks, inevitably starting a forest fire.
The man is scared shitless so he runs for his life, leaving Weena to burn alive with the rest of the Morlocks.

Later, when he tells his account back in his present day, he blows off the whole Weena thing like it barely mattered. "Yeah, I was kind of upset at the time, but now that I'm back here it might as well have been a dream for all I care. Pass me the brandy."

Maybe the most disturbing part of the book is when the Time Traveler leaves the era of Eloi and Morlock, because instead of going home he travels forward, driven by some sick fascination with seeing how the world will end.

What he finds is bleak, cold and empty. Thirty-million years in the future the Earth stops rotating, the biosphere itself is all but extinct except for algae, and there's no sign that the human race had ever existed. It is some seriously dark shit, and it's a fascinating answer to a fun question: "If you had a time machine, where would you go?"

Because virtually every piece of time travel fiction answers this question with either a trip to the past, "I'd kill Hitler!", "I'd kill dinosaurs!" or a short jump into humanity's future, "I'd hang out with space people!"

Nobody but H.G. Wells said, "I'd watch the inevitable final sunset of all civilization and life on planet Earth."

And that's what the book ends up being about, which is doubly interesting because this is the book that made time travel a popular concept.

Anyways, I had a point to all of this. What I'd like to express is that when people read the original novel, they didn't come away from it thinking how fucked up and pointless our place in the universe is. That part didn't matter at all.

Instead, they were more like, "Fuck those Morlocks! Yeah! Punch 'em in the nuts!"

Direct hit!

Guy Pearce is ten times the actor that Rod Taylor is.

1 comment:

  1. Uh yeah, in the book, the little pink creatures were rather dumb. I don't remember it very well, but in my memory they were a lot like rabbits. It's funny that the movies have them essentially still people. But on the other hand, what the fuck is the point of making a movie in the first place if nobody gets punched in the nuts, and most importantly, if some actors aren't going to get paid?