Timeline on DVD
Michael Crichton can sure spin a yarn, and even his lesser works still tend
to be ripping stories that blend science fiction with science fact and drama.
Such is the case with Timeline, a reasonably ripping tale that blends history
with sci-fi. Its no Jurassic Park, but its a reasonable
couple of hours in the home theater.
Timeline deals with a group of archaeologists and their handler/guides
who fax themselves back to 14th century France to rescue a modern
day archaeologist who preceeded them in time travel, then got trapped there.
Theyre guided and supposedly protected by tough as nails ex-Marines,
but these Marines are woefully unprepared to cope in those olden days where
the rules of engagement were totally different from what they expect. And needless
to say, most of the Marines dont make it more than a few minutes into
the past, leaving our intrepid hero academics to fend for themselves in a frighteningly
Of course, theyre better prepared because it just so happens that theyd
been working on a dig exactly where theyre sent to, excavating the locale
they're visiting, and so they have at least a middling understanding of life
there though there are plenty of surprises awaiting them, too.
In some ways director Richard Donners movie is better than the book,
or at least more interesting, in that it focuses more on the present day
efforts of the scientific team to get the time travelers back (which, if our
memories serve us, didnt occupy nearly as much time in the book) and that
gives a reality hook to the action that helps with the suspension
of disbelief as well as preventing the movie from being merely a blast to the
past. And while theyve eliminated quite a bit of the trip itself (which
we found the weakest part in many ways) what theyve left works
As with the book-to-movie conversion of Jurassic Park, theres
may fifteen per cent of the book in the Donner film, and that percentage is
reasonably faithful. But we end up with more of an action/adventure story than
the book (which almost seems like a historical lesson) gives us and thats
fine for the visual medium.
Donners film is visually lovely (Caleb Deschanels cinematography
undoubtedly helps here), and it really looks great in the anamorphic widescreen
version of the DVD. The production values are first rate, colors are gorgeous
and the battle scenes are exquisitely staged.
The cast is pretty good. The only members of whom wed really heard before
are Billy Connolly and David Thewlis, and they're both fine here. The rest put
in journeyman performances, but it isnt the characters that star here,
anyway: its the situation and overall theyve done it pretty
Timeline virtually disappeared from theaters on its initial release, which
is surprising considering that it's a Crichton outing, but part of the reason
may be that if you havent read the book you may have trouble figuring
out whats going on. We watched it in an audience that included two people
whod read the novel and one who hadnt, and the ones who had read
it enjoyed the movie version and could follow the twists much
As hinted at above, the DVD quality itself is first rate. The picture is offered
in two separate versions, one featuring anamorphic widescreen video (16x9 TV
compatible) and a Pan&Scan version. We were fortunate to receive the widescreen
version and its gorgeous.
Audio is offered in Dolby Digital 5.1 surround and its also very good,
with nice use of the surround channels. There was one instance when a bird was
calling out of the rear speakers and one of our audience thought there was a
bird outside the house.
Extras arent bad. Theres no directors commentary, unfortunately
(wed love to have heard Richard Donners thoughts about the movie),
but there are some decent documentaries on the making of the film. You also
get some theatrical trailers, including two from this movie and several others
from upcoming Paramount releases.
Bottom line: Timeline isnt the best Crichton, but its worth seeing.
Timeline, from Paramount Home Entertainment,
115 min. anamorphic widescreen (2.35.1, 16x9 TV compatible)/Pan&Scan (sold
separately), Dolby Digital 5.1 surround
Starring Paul Walker, Frances OConnor, Gerard Butler, Billy Connolly
Produced by Lauren Shuler Donner, Jim Van Wyck, Richard Donner
Written by Jeff Maguire and George Nolfi, directed by Richard Donner
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