THE TIME MACHINE. Dreamworks/Warner Brothers, 2002. Guy Pearce, Sienna Guillory, Samantha Mumba, Jeremy Irons, Orlando Jones, Mark Addy, Phyllida Law, Alan Young. Based on the novel by H. G. Wells and the 1960 screenplay by David Duncan. Director: Simon Wells.

   There’s some resemblance between one of H. G. Wells’ most famous stories and this movie, but not a whole lot. I suspect it’s a lot closer to the 1960 film based on a screenplay by David Duncan, the one starring Rod Taylor and produced by George Pal, but it’s been so long that I watched that one that perhaps I should not even bring it up.

   The first part of the movie, the part that takes place in Victorian England, is better by far than what follows, as Alexander Hartdegen (Guy Pearce) travels into the future to find out why he can’t change the past by means of a time machine he has built (a wonderful concoction of revolving rings, clockwork gears and sharply focused beams of light) — a past in which his fiancée dies, and keeps on dying every time to goes back in time to save her, only to fail.

   In the far, far future mankind has evolved into two races: the Eloi, a peaceful lot who live above ground but who seem to have no purpose in their lives, and the Morlocks, a race of ravaging monsters who live below ground and prey on the Eloi at feeding time.

   There are a lot of computer generated effects to make this future come to life. The past is easier to reproduce (ignoring the fact that Hartdegen’s betrothed (Sienna Guillory) uses present day makeup to enhance her already natural beauty). Much is made of Hartdegen’s inability to change the past, but the explanation, when it comes, is tossed off in a line that takes less than five seconds to say.

   It is one of those temporal paradoxes like the one that says you can’t go back and kill your grandfather before you are born because then there would be no you to go back in time to kill your grandfather. But to put a proposition like this before an audience that might want to think about it while would take some effort, and Simon Wells (H. G. Wells great-grandson) takes the easier way out and concentrates on the monsters and the blow darts and the explosions instead, presumably thinking that’s enough to satisfy the reality based science fiction fans among us.

   It isn’t. No more than to imagine that destroying the moon in its orbit in the 21st century would allow for any kind of life to exist on the Earth 800,000 years later, much less speak English.