December 16, 2007

Compared to the novel, Donner's Timeline is a waste of time

by Frederico Fonseca

United States, 2003

Running Length: 1:55
MPAA Classification: PG-13 (Violence)
Cast: Paul Walker, Frances O'Connor, Gerard Butler, Billy Connolly, Ethan Embry, Anna Friel, Rossif Sutherland, David Thewlis, Matt Craven, Neal McDonough
Director: Richard Donner (Ladyhawke)
Producers: Richard Donner, Lauren Shuler Donner, Jim Van Wyck
Screenplay: Jeff Maguire and George Nolfi, based on the novel by Michael Crichton (Jurassic Park, The 13th Warrior, Rising Sun)

Professor Edward Johnston (Billy Connolly), aided by his assistants Andre Marek (Gerard Butler), Chris Johnston (Paul Walker), Kate Erickson (Frances O'Connor) and Fran├žois Dontelle (Rossif Sutherland), makes a huge discovery: the ruins of what was once La Roque, a 14th-century French castle. While part of his team goes down into the ruins to explore it, Professor Johnston travels to New Mexico to have a meeting with Robert Doninger, president of ITC Corp., which financially supports the excavations in France. Meanwhile, Marek and Kate discover inside the ruins a sealed chamber, and inside it, two intriguing objects - a bifocal lens, which couldn't have been invented before the chamber was sealed, and a handwritten letter from Professor Johnston dated of 1357, asking for help...From this moment on Professor's team starts a quest to rescue him from the 14th century, where he was sent by ITC's time-machine, to see with his own eyes the 100 Years War between French and English.

Although Crichton's novel is actually one of the best modern science fiction thriller books available, its adaptation to a film is a classic example of how fantastic books can turn into catastrophic films. The main reason is because it would be impossible to condense an over-500-page book into a film less than 2 hours of length and expect this film to be accurate with the original novel. The details of characters, landscape, clothes, weapons, either are not present in the film, or are carelessly inserted in it. Language differences were forgotten... so were consequences of acts made in the past. The actors, also, were not as good as they were expected to be. Billy Connolly's performance was unacceptably weak, even worse than in The Last Samurai. The same thing happened with Michael Sheen, when compared with his part in Underworld.

Regardless of his experience with previous films, such as Lethal Weapon, Ladyhawke, Superman, and at least a dozen more, director Richard Donner was unable to turn this one into a blockbuster. Maybe it was due to the low budget of the film, or simply the absence of will to do a good job, we will never know...

Except for the beautiful landscape and some special effects during the battle at La Roque, the filmmakers have not done a good job, so it would be nice if you had the opportunity to first watch it and then go to the book to get your own impressions.
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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Funny that the trailler shows only the name of Paul Walker. But now I think the real star of the group is Gerard Butler, after '300'. I did not read the book but the movie isn't so good, I agree with you.
Miguel (SP)