I found this to be a very interesting adaptation, and one that leaves the viewer with a lot to think about. It has its weak points; the major one for me is a complete lack of chemistry between Alexander and Emma. I suppose brilliant nerdy guys crush on vapid pretty cheerleader types all the time, although Alexander seems to have a bit more depth than that. But you can't imagine what Emma would see in him (unless it's the small fortune he obviously has to live on and finance his research), and her fussing about getting flowers, in January in 1899, had me rolling my eyes. We're not shown anything to develop her character at all--she's a fluffy blonde babe who likes to ice skate in red velvet. This is problematical because Alexander's grief over Emma's death drives the entire plot. What about this woman made Alexander go into seclusion for four solid years building a time machine so he can undo the past and bring her back?
But accepting as a given that he does, for some reason, the rest of the story unfolds with some real power. The time-lapse sequences are very well done and fascinating to watch. The depictions of humanity's future, at Alexander's various stops, are equally intriguing and leave us with some sneakily implied details. For instance, in the opening 1899 scenes Alexander has his first encounter with an automobile and it's practically love at first sight; in the time lapse forward he watches his former laboratory turned into a garage for a period of time. But when he lands in the year 2030 and stops to look around...there are no cars at all. Everyone on the street is bicycling. Yet they have space travel. Why no cars?
At Alexander's next stop, he finds the planet in crisis because the moon is breaking up. The reason, we're told, is that blasting to create luxury underground colonies on the moon ended up shattering the moon. While this may or may not be plausible, the message lies in the cause of the catastrophe, not the details. Corporate greed and reckless disregard for the integrity of natural systems dooms life as we know it and almost renders humanity extinct. War, nuclear or otherwise, isn't the only or even the greatest danger we pose to ourselves.
The culture of the Eloi is both idyllic and laced with sadness, and Mara is a complex and memorable character (much more so than Emma). When Jeremy Irons' "uber-Morlock" appears, at first he didn't strike me as plausible. But Irons convinced me, turning this figure into something of a dark mirror image of Orlando Jones' holographic librarian. He's wise and insightful (he understands and answers Alexander's motivating question) but ice-hearted and brutal, and in a way, he's a far more chilling model of what humanity might evolve into than the ape-like Morlock hunters.
At the end of the film, we completely understand what Alexander saw as he travels through time from his laboratory in the beginning. The continuity wraps up very neatly. And I liked the way they handled the ending. The score by Klaus Badelt (who scored the first Pirates of the Caribbean film and created the iconic motifs for that series of movies) is perfect.
No offense to Sienna Guillory, who does the best she can with what she's given, but I'd give this film five stars if it weren't for the weakness of Emma's character (and hence Alexander's motivations).