A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this movie is exactly what parents would expect of a Hollywood medieval movie, featuring swordfights and siege warfare, including burning arrows and trebuchets. Several unarmed characters are killed with swords, bow and arrow, and other weapons of the time. What is especially alarming is the casual ease with which the students take the lives of the 14th century soldiers, showing -- with one exception -- no remorse. Although this war is shown to take place at a time when violent death is all but the norm, there is little explanation of why these modern young historians embrace their role as soldiers or their side of the battlefield so easily.
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What's the story?
Based on Michael Crichton's uneven but entertaining book of the same name, TIMELINE launches with a secretive company in the midst of a cover-up after one of its employees dies of sword-inflicted injuries. Apparently, International Technology Corporation (ITC) has discovered a wormhole through time and space, which allows its employees to "fax" themselves back in time to 1357 onto a battlefield between the English (bad) and the French (good) for control of an impenetrable fortress on a hill. To better understand the era, ITC sends back Professor Johnson (Billy Connolly), the top historian specializing in that particular battle. Fellow Scot and assistant professor Andre Marek (Gerard Butler), Johnson's supremely American son Chris (Paul Walker), his love-interest, Kate (Frances O'Connor), and a few others follow Johnson back in time. Once there they are swept up in the intrigue and battle, not realizing that they may never make it back to the future.
Is it any good?
Timeline is yet another time travel movie, but since it's unspectacular we can relax, letting this one pass unobserved while knowing that another one will not be far off in the future. For the dedicated genre fans, this movie is barely entertaining enough to stay well above the nadir of truly bad movies but it lacks any force or energy to release it from the pull of total mediocrity.
The six hours that the team is supposed to spend in 1357 is filled with pre-battle maneuverings and hustling in and out of captivity since the English take them as spies for the French and the Scots side with anyone against the English. Despite much scurrying about the ramparts, the battle scenes are a pale repetition of any movie where a castle is stormed. In fact the one distinguishing feature about Timeline is a generally hurried feel as if all those involved wanted to wrap up the flick and head home. For those seeking familiar themes in an ever-popular genre, this movie is weakly entertaining enough to fill the space, but those seeking something new under the sun should peek down another wormhole.
Talk to your kids about ...
- In theaters: November 26, 2003
- On DVD or streaming: April 13, 2004
- Cast: Frances O'Connor, Gerard Butler, Paul Walker
- Director: Richard Donner
- Studio: Paramount Pictures
- Genre: Science Fiction
- Run time: 116 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: intense battle sequences and brief language
- Last updated: August 20, 2020
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