Why make a time travel movie without a paradox? Why do it? That’s like making a submarine movie without leaks, or a romantic-comedy with no wacky misunderstandings.
In “Timeline,” modern-day archaeology students travel back to the 14th century to rescue a colleague and get stuck in a bow-and-arrow battle between the evil British and the kindly French.
Sounds like it’s loaded with paradoxes, right? Save the life of one soldier, and maybe the course of history changes. Interfere with an entire battle and the future-as-they-knew-it is obliterated, right? Maybe they were never born, and what then?
There is no such delicate speculation in “Timeline.” Instead of timequakes and future-ripples, all we get are battle scenes and students who know who’s going to win. This is just an excuse to put a pretty boy (Paul Walker of “The Fast and the Furious”) back in time. There is no mystery or imagination to be found in this “fantasy” from “Jurassic Park” writer Michael Crichton.
Walker plays the son of a famous archaeologist (Billy Connolly), who has disappeared in the midst of researching the 600-year-old ruins in the Dordogne Valley of France. Seems he crossed paths with Robert Doniger (David Thewlis) who heads the International Technology Corp. and dresses like he shops at the Scary Nerd store.
Doniger is trying to perfect his 3-D fax machine, a huge mirror-filled contraption that can deconstruct objects into energy and make them appear at a receiver on the other side of the globe. Instead he discovers a wormhole that leads back in time.
The catch is that it only leads to that one point: April 2, 1357.
The old professor got into the machine and vanished. Now they don’t know how to bring him back, so they’ll send his son, students and some company security to rescue him.
This leads to some unanswered questions:
If the doctor has gone missing, what makes them think the rescue squad won’t go missing, too?
If the machine always drops them off at the same point in time, how come the security guards — who’ve made the trip many times — never meet themselves. That would have been cool.
Alas, all we get is a lame love story between Walker and Frances O’Connor (who played the human mom in “AI: Artificial Intelligence”) and a lot of modern people getting in the way of the old-time fighting.
Director Richard Donner, who made “Superman” and “Lethal Weapon,” films the battle scenes well and keeps the story moving, but he has little story to work with.
At best, this feels like a pilot for a TV time-travel series that shows promise but needs some reworking.