DVD Review HTF REVIEW: Timeline

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Scott Kimball, Apr 9, 2004.

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  1. Scott Kimball

    Scott Kimball Screenwriter

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    [​IMG]

    Timeline



    Studio: Paramount

    Year: 2003
    Rated: PG-13
    Length: 115 minutes
    Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1

    Audio: English Dolby Digital 5.1, French Dolby Digital 5.1, English Surround

    English Subtitled and Closed Captioned

    Special Features: 2 featurettes (one in three parts), Trailers, Previews

    SRP: $19.95 US


    Release Date: April 13, 2004




    I’m a science geek. I admit it. I love stories that take a solid scientific premise and mix in a little science fiction to tell a good story. That’s why I enjoy Michael Crichton’s novels so much. He starts with hard science and mixes in a touch of science fiction to create stories that entertain and, sometimes, educate a little. Push the idea of cloning a bit beyond today’s possibilities and you get Jurassic Park. Want to see some dark possibilities of nanotechnology in the future, try Prey. How about seeing a group of archaeologists experience the past firsthand?

    When I watch a film based on a book that I enjoy, I try very hard not to compare. There is no way to translate a novel into a motion picture without cutting exposition. I accept that – which is why I enjoyed the film version of Jurassic Park. In the movie Timeline, however, the very essence of the film was lost in the translation.

    The book spends considerable time on the science of archaeology, and specifically, a 14th century dig in France. There is much exposition on the lives of the people of the time, and the changing tide of war. The book also deals with modern high tech corporate politics and greed. These things that took many chapters to set up in the novel are left by the wayside in order to make a movie about a bunch of modern characters (who we care little about) existing as fish out of water and fighting medieval battles in 14th century France.

    The basic story of the film involves an archaeologist who goes missing after leaving a dig in France to go visit the company that is funding his project. His team amazingly finds modern artifacts on the dig site that defy explanation. Then, they find writings on 14th century parchment left behind, in the handwriting of the missing scientist.

    The team flies back to America to confront the people at ITC, the evil corporation that is funding the dig. They find that their colleague has, indeed, been sent back in time. They are asked to go back in time to rescue him.

    By now, only 10 or 15 minutes of the film has passed, and the valiant archaeologists go back to 1357 France on a mission to save their leader. The rest of the film has great sets and scenery, excellent period costumes, and some exciting action scenes… but it all seems rushed. We don’t get to know the characters, or care for them. We don’t get to find out the true nature of the evil corporation and its leader. All the things that made the story intriguing are gone, in favor of big action sequences.

    Billy Connolly plays the missing Professor Johnston. Paul Walker is his son, Chris. Gerard Butler plays a convincing Andre Marek, though the character wasn’t Scottish in the novel. David Thewlis is a waste in the role of Doniger, a part that is so pared down from the novel that they may as well have left him out. Frances O’Connor and Anna Friel round out the cast as the token love interests.

    The film succeeds purely as an action flick. Seen on that basis, it is an enjoyable enough ride. The science geek in you, however, need not bother with this one. Go into this one expecting a popcorn action flick, and you’ll probably enjoy it. Fans of the novel will be disappointed. This is a case where 20 minutes of added exposition to flesh out the concept of time travel, the specifics of 14th century French – English warfare, and the shady dealings of ITC could have helped tremendously. I mean, why rush a good story?

    The Video
    14th Century France is well rendered in this anamorphic transfer. The textures of the castle walls and the costumes really come through in a detailed, sharp image. Excellent contrast, strong black levels and good shadow detail make the image stand out. Colors are accurately rendered and well saturated. There is virtually no grain in the picture. No obvious sharpening or compression artifacts are to be seen. The low light and smoke effects are handled well, with no pixilation or drifting. The print is devoid of dust and scratches. This really looks terrific.

    The Audio
    The Dolby Digital 5.1 track has good frequency response. Bass-lovers may think that low frequencies are lacking, but I think there is enough punch when called for – galloping horses, explosions, etc. Rear channels usually provide a simple, subdued ambience – but they come to life in the more immersive action sequences. Excellent directional effects exist across the front soundstage. LFE effects kick in when needed, but don’t call attention to themselves. This is certainly an adequate mix, but not as active and immersive as some would like or expect.

    Special Features

    One cool (but useless) feature is the ability to change the menu system from a 1357 theme to a modern theme. I’ll leave it to you to figure out how to change it (it’s not hard).

    Journey Through Timeline (45:10, in three parts)
    Entirely shot on the location sets, this is sort of a video diary of the production. It isn’t terribly deep in nuts and bolts information, but it has lots of “texture.” Director Richard Donner and crew were wearing microphones during the shoot. We get to listen as they discuss setting up shots, as they coach the actors, and even as they occasionally bicker and argue. There are scattered interviews with crew and cast throughout, as they take breaks on the set. There is also footage of some of the practical jokes played on set. I like this format… it’s sort of like being on set without all the sitting around and waiting for things to happen (if you haven’t been on a working set, that happens a lot).

    The Textures of Timeline (18:17)
    Interviews and demonstrations by costume designers, set designers, weapons designers and visual effects and stunt crews show us the attention to detail on the set, and the attempts to achieve realism. This interesting “behind the scenes” piece concludes with information on set construction and the composition of the musical score.

    Trailers
    There are two theatrical trailers for the film.

    Previews
    Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow
    The Stepford Wives
    The Spongebob Squarepants Movie
    Paycheck
    The Perfect Score

    Final Thoughts
    I try to separate my feelings for the novel, which I really enjoyed, from my attitude toward mindless action movies – which, I believe, have their place and can be enjoyable. I think Timeline deserved better treatment than it got in this adaptation – but the film does work on its own level. The transfer is more than adequate and the extras are interesting. I recommend it for action fans.
     
  2. ChrisBEA

    ChrisBEA Screenwriter

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    Thanks for the review.
    I saw this in the theaters and thought it was very weak. Not to mention, Paul Walker can't act at all.
    It had some decent action, but some of it went on too long. The movie could have used tightening up of what was there and more of the modern time story. It appeared that there was a lot trimmed from the film, problem is they trimmed from the wrong areas. I should mention that I haven't read the book, but I too try to judge book/films based on their own merits. I took a class in this back in college, and it helped me too try and keep the 2 separate.
     
  3. Ron-P

    Ron-P Producer

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    I love these. The main reason I built a dedicated HT.

    This will make a great blind purchase. Thanks for the review.
     
  4. John H Ross

    John H Ross Screenwriter

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    I might have considered it if they'd re-instated Jerry Goldsmith's score, but as it is... nah!

    I shall continue to listen to Maestro Goldsmith's Timeline music in isolation instead...

    John
     
  5. Jeff_HR

    Jeff_HR Producer

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    I agree with ChrisBEA. I'll pass on this film.
     
  6. jonathan_little

    jonathan_little Stunt Coordinator

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    A hybrid SACD of Jerry's score is coming this year from Varese Sarabande, so don't waste your money on bootlegs!
     
  7. John H Ross

    John H Ross Screenwriter

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    Ah, but will it contain all 73 glorious minutes?

    John
     
  8. jonathan_little

    jonathan_little Stunt Coordinator

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    Varese Sarabande calls it a "deluxe edition," so yes, I expect it to be closer to 73 minutes than 30 minutes. It will also have 5.1 sound, while I'm pretty sure the bootleg does not. [​IMG]
     
  9. EnricoE

    EnricoE Supporting Actor

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    another movie that was released in the u.s. on dvd at the same time where the film started it's theatrical run here in germany. good for me to have the dvd at hand and so i can enjoy this no-brainer at home [​IMG]
     
  10. Dave Vaughn

    Dave Vaughn Stunt Coordinator

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    I agree that Paul Walker can't act worth a damn. He ruined this movie for me and whoever adapted the screen play changed too many good things in the book. They turned a good science fiction book and turned it into a mindless, poorly acted action flick.

    Just my $.02.

    Dave
     
  11. Ron-P

    Ron-P Producer

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    Being the sucker for time travel movies that I am and after hearing / reading all the bad reviews on this, I just had to purchase it blind yesterday.

    Well, both the wife and I really enjoyed it last night. Decent story line so as not to get bored. Some very nice cinematography and sets, acting was average but not near as bad as what I've read about. The hardest part to get past was Paul Walker, a copy cat act from Fast and the Furious. Other than that most everyone else did a decent job. I've seen worse.

    PQ on this disk is excellent as was the dd track. Good use of surrounds with some good solid bass (made for a few startling jump scenes).
     
  12. Paul D G

    Paul D G Screenwriter

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    I enjoyed the book but passed seeing it in theatres based on weak review. This will be my rental for the week.

    -paul
     
  13. Garrett Lundy

    Garrett Lundy Producer

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    In a word: Mediocre.


    I'll be moving on to another movie now.
     
  14. Jordan_E

    Jordan_E Cinematographer

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    It was . . . okay. A rental, yes. A purchase? Hmmmm. Maybe when it hits the 2 fer $20 bin at my local video store.
     
  15. RobertR

    RobertR Lead Actor

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    This thread reminds me of Sturgeon's Law: 95% of everything is crap. I just wish the percentage wasn't quite so high, or that the crappy stuff wasn't quite so crappy. It also reminds me why good SF is enjoyed so much.
     
  16. Frank@N

    Frank@N Screenwriter

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    How would you compare 'Timeline' to 'The Core'.

    I picked up 'The Core' hoping for a fun SF ride, but was a bit put off by the nearly insane 'science' part.
     
  17. Frank@N

    Frank@N Screenwriter

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    My local Wal-Mart is blurring the lines between new and used with hard-to-resist prices:

    All single-disc new releases are $14.88 +tax.

    But I'm still towing the line and refusing to pay more than $10 for anything.
     
  18. George_W_K

    George_W_K Screenwriter

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    The poor acting in this movie completely took me away from the story. The only person that had any glimpse of acting talent was the girl who played Lady Clair. Everyone was terrible. The actor who played Paul Walker's father was WORSE than Paul Walker![​IMG] I am super glad that I rented this.
     
  19. Robert Holloway

    Robert Holloway Stunt Coordinator

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    Netflix fodder for me :)
    Rob
     
  20. Matt Butler

    Matt Butler Screenwriter

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    I rather enjoyed the flick. The doc was great as well. It doesnt hurt that I am a big Donner fan though. (I even got to meet him once. [​IMG] )
     

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