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Timeline  (2003)


Rating: PG-13

Distributor: Paramount Home Entertainment

Release Date: April 13, 2004
Review posted: April 27, 2004


Reviewed by Dennis Landmann




Archaeology professor Edward Johnston (Billy Connolly) gets stuck in 14th century France after a company's time-travel machine malfunctioned and lost his signal. His only chance to return lies in the hands of his son Chris (Paul Walker), his assistant professor Andre (Gerard Butler) and several of his students (including Frances O'Connor). The team must make the same treacherous journey and, with the deadline of only eight hours, must navigate through the hostile, war-torn territory and retrieve the professor before he's lost to history forever.




Timeline is the sort of film adaptation that gets muddled and toned down in the scripting stage. The script tells a straight-forward story in the beginning, but it gets more and more basic as time goes on. It forces a scenario on the viewers, time travel once again, and then hopes to make it interesting with some action and a romance subplot. This doesn't quite work. The central conflict in the script is the race against time, which could've been interesting if done right, but it lacks intensity. There is some conflict between the characters later, but this seems forced and doesn't achieve much.


Transitions between the events in 14th century France and present day, the scientists desperately try to rebuild the machine, break any kind of flow the film may have. What once was a rescue mission for the Professor turns into a grand spectacle of a battle between the French and English, and the characters just happen to stumble into the conflict. This would be fine if the characters were interesting, but they're not. The only character I liked was Gerard Butler's Andre Marek, the actor giving a good performance in an average role.


The rest of the actors do alright, except for Paul Walker who is miscast as the film's lead. He doesn't have the emotional reach or the needed pull factor required for the role (he has to rescue his father). With the film riding on the character's emotions, the viewer's involvement in the drama is lost.


Director Richard Donner stages a few well-done action scenes, but there's nothing in Timeline that distinguishes the work from his previous and much better films. The film's production design and sets are enormous and look really good, plus Brian Tyler's score gives some tension to several scenes. Timeline is not entirely without entertainment value, but in the end it's rather forgettable.




Paramount presents Timeline in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. The print image is in good condition with only a few minor flaws. Colors are clear and bright, but some exterior scenes look a bit cold. Grain appears from time to time, as do a handful of specks. Definition is good, sharpness is fine. Compression artifacts do not show up, but a bit of edge enhancement does. Black levels and dark tones look pretty good.




Paramount presents Timeline in English 5.1 Dolby Surround Sound. Dialogue is clear and easy to understand, yet some sentences are slightly muffled. Sound effects are nicely reinforced by the surrounds, but surround usage is limited to the action scenes. The front speakers handle most of the soundtrack. Brian Tyler's score sounds nice. Not the strongest or liveliest track I've heard, but good nonetheless.




The DVD includes a well-done, three-part making of documentary called Journey Through Timeline (45:09) that's directed by Jonathan Gaines. You can play all three parts individually or as one.


Setting Time covers the action and behind-the-scenes on the forest shoot, as well as the preparation of the time machine's explosion. Somewhere in here the director and producer (Lauren Shuler Donner) reveal the script went from several writers to various drafts, a sign  that's most likely the reason why the film is not that good.


The Knights of La Roque details the preparation and shoot of the final battle at the castle with some good behind-the-scenes footage. The idea of the photo collage is pretty interesting.


Making Their Own History deals with the last day of production, but starts with a joke played on Paul Walker whose tan and make-up apparently don't match continuity. Cast and crew give their final thoughts on their experience. The last shot consists of the entire cast and crew posing for a group picture, which was nice. The amount of enthusiasm from the actors and crew in this documentary I sadly cannot share.


The Textures of Timeline (18:16) shows early animatics and blue screen work, reveals the costumes and miniature models, tracks the scoring session with Brian Tyler, features film clips, and on-set footage and interviews.


Both of the film's theatrical trailers are included, as are Paramount preview trailers. The DVD menu exists in two ways, one in a futuristic style (2003) and the other in medieval style (1357). Not sure what the point is, but it's something else.


The 115-minute feature is organized into sixteen chapters. The disc comes in an Amaray keepcase with the new snaps on the side.




A miscast Paul Walker leads a group of people back to 14th century France in Timeline, a film adaptation that lacks characterization and conflict, essentially lacking drama. The action scenes provide decent entertainment, however. Paramount's DVD edition is good, with pretty nice video/audio quality and several interesting supplements.




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