Timeline is less a sci-fi film, and more of an adventure film that takes place in the mid-1300s. Either way, it wasn't all that spectacular and at times downright loony.
Apparently a corporation that was trying to fax three-dimensional objects from one coast to the other, happened upon a wormhole in time, so that objects, instead of being sent to New York, were sent back in time. At the same time, this corporation decided to fund an archeological dig over the area that these objects (and as we find out, people) were sent back to, so that they can maybe figure out why the wormhole ended up in medieval France. The leader of the dig decides to be sent back in time and is trapped there, so the rest of his team, including his son, decide to go back and find him. Of course they are sent back to the day of a massive battle where everyone is going to die. Will they survive?
The first answer is, who cares? I didn't care for a single one of these characters, which made the entire movie almost moot, because if I didn't care if they lived, why should I bother caring about what they do in France? On the other hand, it is just a movie, so I stuck with it. First off, I've said it before and I'll say it again, Paul Walker is not a good actor. He is a frat boy with good looks who happened to end up with some role somewhere and has used that to launch a career. At the rate he's going, soon he'll shock the world and headline a futuristic sci-fi trilogy and make hundreds of millions of dollars and suddenly people will be saying he's a good actor when he's still not. The rest of the cast was decent enough, although having Frances O'Connor as your lead female actor and love interest of Walker looked wrong. It might have been just me, but she looked like she could have been his mother. I found their relationship disturbing. I also love how in a lot of these types of movies, you can have characters that are in a serious, life or death situation, and it's at that moment, when they have a chance at survival, that the two leads will suddenly decide that they really just want to kiss each other.
It was almost comical how when the large group went back in time, you knew immediately who was going to live, who was going to die, and who was going to end up being the one that decided they didn't want to come back to the present. Let's see, we'll throw in two guys we haven't mentioned before, and then we'll make one person really, really scared about dying. Gee, I wonder if they'll all live? Then as soon as we get there, we'll have one of the characters fall in love with a woman he happened to run into, in an underground cave while hiding from the French. I wonder if he'll stick around to be with her? And in the end, by pure chance, we'll have the really bad corporate guy die as well, just to make things all nice and dandy. The other problem I have with time traveling movies is that if you think too much, a lot of things won't make sense. So try not to pay attention to that stuff, because it'll annoy you even more.
The movie is being marketed as a sci-fi film, but in reality, it's an adventure film. The sci-fi stuff happened for a few seconds here and there, but is just a means to an end. None of the technical aspects of time travel mean anything in the movie, although they did play a larger role in the book. Michael Crichton tends to get very technically specific in his books, but when translated to the big screen, most of the scientific mumbo-jumbo gets tossed out the window, mainly because it would be hard to show all that, without making the movie seriously boring. Which leaves you in this case with people being sent back in time, without a real discussion about how in the hell it was possible. If you like special effects, don't bother with this movie, because there really aren't any.
Was this a bad movie? Not really. Was it great? Not close. Was it mindless entertainment? Only if you don't stop to think about time travel and don't want to bother with a worthwhile story. The movie wasn't horrible by any means. They still spent a lot of money on sets and explosions and costumes, and from that point of view, it was decent enough. I thought the movie looked pretty good, and the battle sequences were done well. Take away Paul Walker and the cast held their own, and in fact, I wish I could have seen more of some of them. On the other hand, you'd be better off reading the book. It was much more enjoyable than the movie.
THE BOTTOM LINE
So overall Timeline isn't something you need to see. Save your money for other big budget films coming out the rest of the year. Or, spend less money buying a copy of the book and use your imagination. Since you control your imagination, you can make your own movie in your head, and it won't star Paul Walker. I hope.
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