A good reviewer cannot be limited to his/her own immediate frame of reference. In an odd way, a precept this movie affords us unintentionally. The few reviews obtainable of it, either laud it from a firm religious base or condemn it for having one. Still, if one regards devotion to ideal (either religious or otherwise…even that of a serial killer,) a discredit, many great cinema experiences would have fallen through the cracks. Beginning with those of the great D. W. Griffith.
Indeed the movie industry has long extended itself into sub-genre, this one, I admit, religious. However, this reviewer would argue, in this case, the film is actually enhanced by it. Partly due to a superb cast boasting, Gavin MacLeod, Hal Linden, even Paul Rodriquez and the eternally beautiful, Jennifer O’Neill. Lead is D. David Morin, who, at times, rises splendidly to the occasion. MacLeod’s performance is either inspired or the script was written around him. The writer/director, Rich Christiano’s contributions, on both fronts, as difficult as this must have been, were successful on grand scale.
All this in mind, the movie’s primary enhancement is situational…but still refraining from the rather cheap and predictable delivery of what we’ve grown to love/hate from that of television’s situation comedy. No, there are no tawdry short-lined laughs unearned by story-line development here (the curse of 30 minute slot.) Recalling the movie adapted from H. G. Wells’, Time Machine, of the same name, a mixture of scientist, adventurer and lovely leading lady, all conduct the adventure. But here it is a straight-laced Christian theologian from the nineteenth century surging 100 years into the future. This situation intensifies both dramatic effect exponentially as well as interest in his purpose. A purpose, the reviewer might add, well established by script as realistic, profound and moral beyond that of any on the horizon of today.
The question any relativist is left with is, “by what standard should I judge this movie”. Oddly it is the same standard by which the agnostic should evaluate religious people, i.e., is it (they) true to ideal and moral core professed? Spectacularly so, here.
Scenes follow scenes, while this unlikely time traveler pursues his course in a future ill cut out for him. A thoughtful man, honest to a fault in his new setting, he must content himself with innate goodness in others they in turn come to find mirrored more emphatically in him, but in which is found a quite moving “common ground”. Although the humanism implied is the very instrument of decline for a society the script writer finds, a culture in decay towards end times, the movie succeeds in rising above such an aim. A virtue that direction, remember done by the very same script writer, overcomes. Interesting irony, is it not? But there are some really golden moments of irony in this film.
One might think this movie to be lessened in an aspect good science fiction almost always offers, that of novel scope or idea. The ending well redeems it of that. Pay close attention, and you will see an interesting manner of remotely exploring the future no other story-line, to this reviewer’s knowledge, has presented for a time machine.
This reviewer’s one wish: that the marbles used in the very first scene had been contemporary with it and not cat-eyes made in the 1950s. But then he’s a little anal retentive that way.