Alan managed to acquire both the 1960 and 2002 film adaptions of The Time Machine last weekend, so we sat down to have a good old compare-and-contrast evening. Given the lukewarm reviews the 2002 version received, we weren't totally surprised that we both preferred the 1960s version; what did surprise us was exactly how much we disliked the 2002 version. Our biggest problems with it were:
1) Ripping off First Men in the Moon as well (seemingly for no good reason other than to give Jeremy Irons a speaking part) and giving the Morlocks a culture which is a version of the Selenite one from the other book, which actually made them seem much more interesting than the flaky Eloi, who are just a pack of generic noble savages (see below).
2) Completely contradicting its own message halfway through. "You can't change time, it's all fixed, if your girlfriend hadn't died you wouldn't have invented the time machine so you just have to come to terms with it and accept it... oh wait, it turns out you can change time after all, so go ahead and save the Eloi" (and just when I thought he was going to do something actually authentically from the book, and leave Weena [called, boringly, "Mara" in the film] to her dreadful fate).
3) "We Morlocks regard the Eloi as another species, so we kill and eat them-- except for Mara/Weena here, who we're going to use as a sex slave!" Now, really.
4) Most annoyingly, being an unimaginative pastiche of Peter Jackson's adaptation of The Lord of the Rings. Between this and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, it's seeming like the default setting for adaptations of classic British fantasy novels these days is becoming "set it in New Zealand and chuck in a bunch of people who look like Maori and add a soundtrack of Polynesian chanting." Which irks me even more, since, while I know it's fashionable to bash Jackson these days (any time anyone has any success, it happens...) I think he's a pretty intelligent filmmaker, and, when Kiwi elements appeared in LOTR (and King Kong), I could rather see what he was getting at in terms of symbolism, message, etc. Whereas this didn't actually contribute anything to the story or say anything remotely new, other than, perhaps, implying that the Maori are a combination of totally thickheaded but beautiful primitives, and hideously ugly murderers, which one hopes wasn't intentional.
Alan summed it up nicely by saying "The 1960 film made you feel like you'd really travelled in time; the 2002 film just made you feel like you'd travelled to New Zealand."