Have you ever read a book so epic that when it’s announced that a movie based on the book is coming out that your excitement rivals that of a child on Christmas Eve?
Timeline by Michael Crichton was that book for me. I read that book probably three times in a row when it was first released. When the movie was announced about 10 years ago, I couldn’t wait to see this masterpiece on the big screen.
I’ve never been so disappointed in my life.
When I asked the twins what movie they’d like to watch the other day, this is the movie they choose. I acquiesced and consequently seethed the entire time I was watching the movie due to how much the movie just totally ignored the book. And it irritated me badly enough to warrant writing this irate post.
Richard Donner directed the movie and has made such hits as the Lethal Weapon series, Scrooged, Superman I and II, Conspiracy Theory, and The Goonies. So you would assume that a director with such a pedigree combined with a novel written by Michael Crichton would be sure-thing, right? Wrong. Richard Donner butchered this story, which is surprising to me.
The book is about a company, ITC, that inadvertently discovers “time travel” which allows them to travel through a wormhole in the multiverse to the year 1357 using quantum technology.
The beginning of the book centers on an archaeological dig in medieval towns of Castelgard and La Roque in France. ITC is funding the dig. The professor leading the dig, Edward Johnston, becomes suspicious about the information ITC has been providing, which is far too accurate for the towns they are just no unearthing. He travels to ITC headquarters in New Mexico where he finds about the ability to “time travel.” He coerces ITC into sending him back to 1357 and becomes separated from the team and gets lost in the past.
The rest of the team finds out that Johnston is trapped in the past while excavating a newly found room in a monastery which has been buried and deserted for over 600 years. The team initially fears that their professor has played a practical joke on them, but after three carbon-dating tests, they confirm that the parchment and ink are both 600 years old. They confront ITC when they cannot get a hold of the professor and ITC sends a plane to bring them to ITC’s New Mexico headquarters. There the professor’s fate is revealed to them and ITC’s CEO, Robert Doniger recruits the team to go back to 1357 to find the professor.
The movie flies through the beginning so fast that by the time the archeology team goes back in time you have no idea what is going on. Then, in the biggest omission from the book, the movie does not use the ear pieces that were a centerpiece in Crichton’s novel. In the book, the team is sent back with biodegradable ear pieces so they can communicate with each other. They use the ear pieces to find each other when separated. In the movie they find each other through blind luck. There is also an ex-ITC employee in the past who uses the ear pieces to capture the team. In the movie, it’s a mere coincidence that he captures them.
The casting is horrible in this movie. Gerard Butler, who I think is a terrific actor, is cast as Andre Marek. In the book, Andre Marek is described as dark-skinned. In the movie he’s very white and Scottish. And Andre Marek is not a very Scottish name. Professor Johnston is not described as Scottish, but he is in the movie. Paul Walker is cast as Chris, Professor Johnston’s son (in the book, this character’s name is Chris Hughes and is not the professor’s son). Paul Walker is a horrible actor so he has a straight American accent because that’s all he can do. So, in the movie we’re supposed to believe some Scottish Guy has a son that doesn’t sound Scottish. Right.
There are many other discrepancies between the book and the movie. In the book there was a pretty epic fight on a watermill that ended up getting blown up but that is completely omitted from the movie. The tunnel to La Roque is found in some house at the base of a waterfall, not in the monastery like it was in the movie. Also, everyone sent to the past was given a “marker,” which is a device you use to go back to the future (1.21 jiggawatts!!!). In the book the markers are good for three days. In the movie they’re only good for six hours.
Ugh. I could probably go on and on (and on and on), but I just don’t understand why Hollywood feels the need to change the stories of books when adapting them into movies. The book is obviously great the way it is otherwise you wouldn’t be making it in to a movie. So leave the damn story alone and just make the movie, will you people?