Timeline

Recommended. This one is about some archeologists who go back in a time machine to the Middle Ages to rescue a fellow professor who is stuck there from an earlier visit. They get more than they bargain for when they discover that the company in control of the time machine has plans and secrets of its own. I am a sucker for time travel movies. I think it is because it is a way of creatively imagining what it would be like to be in a different world. Or as a character in the movie telegraphs, “the past helps us understand where we come from and where we’re going, so we don’t make the mistakes of the past. We understand now by understanding the past.” So really, all period pieces as well as time travel movies are merely metaphors or doorways to understanding ourselves now. This is why there is often a lot of historical revisionism going on in period pieces. People like to cast the past so much in terms of the present that they end up rewriting history to suit their own prejudices. Oh well. This movie wrestles with the romantic notion of chivalry and the medieval virtues of courage and honor in contrast with the warring brutality of the very same time culture and period. Much like our own that has great accomplishments in technology only to be abused by the greed and power-mongering of men. Crichton’s one note trumpet, a very good one at that, is precisely the scientific hubris of man. From The Terminal Man to Jurassic Park to Prey to Timeline, he writes of the dangers of scientific pursuit without moral restraint. As the lawyer in Jurassic Park says, “We’re so busy exploring if it can be done, we forgot to ask whether it should be done.” I love this motif and think it is apropos for our modernist world. The hero is a dumb California surfer type blond boy who has no real empathetic qualities, while the secondary character, Merrick, who decides to stay in the middle ages cause he studied it so well and fell in love with a woman back then, is the far more interesting part of the story, and a more likable candidate for hero.

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