The Time Machine appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, dual-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. The picture just fell short of true greatness, as it presented a consistently excellent image.
Sharpness almost always looked terrific. During most scenes, the picture stayed wonderfully crisp and distinct. Only when Alex entered the library in 2030 did I notice some softness, as those scenes looked just a little fuzzy. Those moments also displayed some light edge enhancement. Otherwise, the picture stayed well defined, and it lacked any signs of jagged edges or moiré effects. Print flaws seemed to be totally absent, as I observed no examples of grit, speckles, or other defects.
The Time Machine tended toward a fairly warm and romantic palette. The hues appeared nicely clean and concise. The slightly nostalgic brown tint was deep and distinct, and brighter colors came across as vivid and vibrant, with no problems related to noise, bleeding or other concerns. Black levels looked dense and rich, while shadow detail was appropriately heavy but not overly thick. Despite those brief examples of edge enhancement, The Time Machine usually presented a terrific picture.
I also felt very pleased by the DVD’s soundtracks. It included both Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 mixes. Other than a significant variation in volume levels - the DTS version seemed much louder - I thought the two editions presented very similar audio.
That seemed like a good thing, since the audio appeared consistently excellent. All five channels received a nice workout during the movie’s action scenes. The shots that involved Alex in the time machine made it feel as though the viewer sat alongside him, and the first Morlock attack offered a wonderfully vibrant and engaging set piece. The forward spectrum displayed a solid sense of environment, and the surrounds added much unique audio, as they created a terrific sense of the setting. Elements blended together smoothly and panned neatly between speakers to give us a seamless and lively setting.
Audio quality also came across as positive. Dialogue seemed natural and crisp, with no signs of edginess or problems related to intelligibility. Music appeared dynamic and effervescent, as the score sounded bright and full. Effects also were clean and accurate, and they packed a solid punch when necessary. Bass response appeared deep and tight throughout the film. I expect a lot from a modern film of this ilk, and the soundtracks to The Time Machine lived up to current standards.
This DVD edition of The Time Machine features a nice roster of extras, starting with two separate audio commentaries. The first comes from director Simon Wells and editor Wayne Wahrman, both of whom were recorded together for this running, screen-specific track. Wells needed to briefly leave the production of The Time Machine due to exhaustion. Apparently he feels better now, as he offers a very chatty presence during this commentary. Wahrman adds little to the piece; mostly he chimes “wow” or “that’s amazing”, and he contributes exceedingly few bits of original information.
However, I didn’t mind that since Wells presented so much on his own. He covers a nice mix of applicable topics. We hear about the sets, effects, storytelling alterations, stunts, challenges during the production, and a variety of other issues. While he acknowledges that Gore Verbinski needed to take over temporarily, Wells doesn’t go into the subject to any substantial degree. Nonetheless, this commentary seems lively and informative.
Next we find a commentary from producer David Valdes, production designer Oliver Scholl, and visual effects supervisor Jamie Price, all of whom were recorded together for this running, screen-specific piece. On the positive side, the three participants kept the action going most of the time, as this track suffered from only a few empty spaces. However, the material itself seemed fairly dry. I often enjoy commentaries that cover technical elements, but these do tend to become slow-paced and pedantic. This track fit that model. It offered enough interesting moments to keep me going, and I liked the fact that we heard more about Wells’ sabbatical from the film; the participants didn’t go into tremendous detail, but the more fully detailed Gore Verbinski’s involvement. Otherwise, this went down as a decent but bland commentary.
One very unusual but very nice touch: both audio commentaries provided English subtitles! Since commentaries are often the best supplements found on DVDs, more of them should be subtitled so everyone can enjoy them. While none of the other extras on the disc include subtitles, they do feature closed-captioning.
Also located within the commentaries domain, we find an animatic for “The Hunt”. This piece lasts six minutes and 36 seconds and can be viewed with or without commentary from Wells. It shows the segment through filmed storyboards accompanied by rough audio. The commentary makes the program more compelling, as Wells discusses the differences between this early visualization and the final scene in the movie. He also provides some cool technical info such as the reason that the actors who played the Morlocks in the scene couldn’t load their own blowguns.
Once we enter the “Behind the Scenes” domain, we get five different elements. Creating the Morlocks provides a five-minute and 38-second featurette that shows shots from the set and interview snippets with Wells, producers Walter Parkes and David Valdes, actors Irons and Mumba, Morlock makeup effects creator Stan Winston, and Morlock makeup effects technician Greg Fiegel. The program offers some good behind the scenes material - especially as we watch rough footage of the fight between Irons and Guy Pearce - but overall, it seems too superficial.
A similar program appears next under the title of Building the Time Machine. The five-minute and 42-second piece uses the same format as “Morlocks” and we hear from actors Pearce and Mumba, producers Valdes and Parkes, director Wells, production designer Oliver Scholl, special effects supervisor Matt Sweeney, visual effects supervisor Jamie Price, and visual effects Dave Prescott. As with “Morlocks”, we see some fun shots from the set, but the information provided seems pretty basic and doesn’t do much to illuminate the subject.
In a different vein, Visual Effects by Digital Domain gives us a four-minute and seven-second sequence of progressions for a number of effects. We watch different stages of the death of the Uber Morlock and the time lapse segments, for example. Along with this, we get commentary from visual effects supervisor Jamie Price, who adds some rudimentary notes. I enjoyed the shots of Irons in front of a greenscreen, but otherwise this was another fairly bland featurette.
Next in the “Behind the Scenes” area, we find one Deleted Scene. The six-minute and 48-second clip would have appeared at the end of the opening credits. We see Alex as he takes a class on a field trip into the Columbia University courtyard, where he offers a demonstration of solar power. He also has a run-in with a superior. Presented anamorphic 2.35:1 with Dolby Surround 2.0 audio, this scene seems pretty good to me. It slows the pace of the film, which is likely why it didn’t make the cut, but I think it offers some interesting notions.
For the final component of the “Behind the Scenes” area, we get 51 seconds of Stunt Choreography Fight Sequence. This rough footage shows the planning for the fight between Alex and the Uber Morlock. It’s moderately interesting at best.
Inside the “Archives” we discover another five subdomains. The Conceptual Design Gallery further splits into eight areas. Each of these includes between two and 80 images for a total of 219 pictures. Unusually, 18 of the stills also provide commentary from production designer Scholl, something that adds a variety of informative and illuminating tidbits.
Within the Cast domain, we find short but reasonably decent biographies of actors Guy Pearce, Samantha Mumba, Jeremy Irons, Orlando Jones, Mark Addy, Sienna Guillory, Phyllida Law, and Omero Mumba. When we move to the Filmmakers section, we see similar material for director Wells, production designer Oliver Scholl, writer John Logan, editor Wayne Wahrman, producers Walter F. Parkes and David Valdes, costume designer Deena Appel, costume designer Bob Ringwood, executive producers Laurie MacDonald, Jorge Saralegui and Arnold Leibovit, composer Klaus Badelt, visual effects supervisor James E. Price, special effects supervisor Matt Sweeney, director of photography Donald M. McAlpine, and the Stan Winston Studio. For the final text piece, the Production Notes offer a nice and surprisingly detailed synopsis of the film’s creation.
The final area within the “Archives”, Trailers includes three promos. There’s the theatrical teaser as well as the domestic trailer and the international trailer. All offer Dolby Digital 5.1 sound, but only the domestic clip features anamorphic enhancement.
Although The Time Machine had a lot of potential, the final result seemed muddled and bland. The movie managed a few compelling moments and never truly became bad, but it remained lifeless and nondescript for the most part. The DVD provided very strong picture and sound, however, and it also included a fairly nice roster of extras. If you like the film, you’ll be very pleased with the package. Others may want to consider a rental if they think they’ll enjoy it, but that’s the most I can endorse for this lackluster flick.