The Time Machine is a 2002 American science fiction film loosely adapted from the 1895 novel of the same name by H. G. Wells, and the 1960 film screenplay by David Duncan. It was executive-produced by Arnold Leibovit and directed by Simon Wells, who is the great-grandson of the original author, and stars Guy Pearce, Jeremy Irons, Orlando Jones, Samantha Mumba, Mark Addy, Sienna Guillory, and Phyllida Law with a cameo by Alan Young, who also appeared in the 1960 film adaptation. The 2002 film is set in New York City instead of London and contains new story elements not present in the original novel, including a romantic backstory, a new scenario about how civilization was destroyed, and several new characters, such as an intelligent hologram played by Orlando Jones and a Morlock leader played by Jeremy Irons. Director Gore Verbinski was brought in to take over the last 18 days of shooting, as Wells was suffering from "extreme exhaustion". Wells returned for post-production. It was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Makeup at the 75th Academy Awards; the film lost to Frida.
In the year 1899, Dr. Alexander Hartdegen (Guy Pearce) is a young inventor teaching at Columbia University in New York City. Unlike his conservative friend David Philby (Mark Addy), Alexander would rather do pure research than work in the conformist world of business, in which all men wear "identical bowler hats". After his sweetheart Emma (Sienna Guillory) is killed by a robber, he devotes himself to building a time machine in order to save her. When the machine is completed four years later, he travels back to 1899 and prevents her murder, only to see her killed by a horse-drawn carriage. Seeing that one means of Emma's death has been replaced by another, Alexander goes to 2030 to find out whether her life can be saved. At the New York Public Library, a holographic AI librarian/computer called Vox 114 (Jones) insists that time travel is impossible, so Alexander continues into the future until 2037, when the accidental destruction of the Moon by space colonists renders the Earth virtually uninhabitable. When he restarts the time machine to avoid falling debris, he is knocked unconscious and travels to the year 802,701 before waking up and stopping the machine. At this point in time, human civilization has reverted to a primitive lifestyle. Some survivors, called "Eloi", live on the sides of cliffs on what remains of Manhattan. Alexander is nursed back to health by a woman named Mara (Samantha Mumba), one of the few Eloi who speak English. One night, Alexander and Mara's young brother, Kalen (Omero Mumba), dream of a frightening, jagged-toothed face, and the next day, the Eloi are attacked and Mara is dragged underground by ape-like monsters called "Morlocks" that hunt the Eloi for food. In order to rescue her, Kalen leads Alexander to Vox 114, which is still functioning. After learning from Vox how to find the Morlocks, Alexander enters their underground realm through an opening that resembles the face in his nightmare, but he is captured and thrown into an area where Mara sits in a cage. There he meets an intelligent, humanoid Über-Morlock (Jeremy Irons), who explains that Morlocks are the evolutionary descendants of the humans who stayed underground after the Moon broke apart, while Eloi are evolved from those who remained on the surface. Über-Morlocks are a caste of telepaths who rule the monsters that prey on Eloi. The Über-Morlock explains that Alexander cannot alter Emma's fate because her death is what drove him to build the time machine in the first place: saving her would create a temporal paradox. Alexander gets into the machine, which the Morlocks have brought underground, and prepares to return home, but he suddenly pulls the Über-Morlock into the machine, which carries them into the future as they fight. The Über-Morlock dies by rapidly aging when Alexander pushes him outside of the machine's sphere of influence. Alexander then stops in the year 635,427,810, revealing a harsh, rust-colored sky over a wasteland of Morlock caves. Finally accepting that he cannot save Emma, Alexander travels back to rescue Mara. After freeing her, he starts the time machine and jams its gears, creating a violent distortion in time. Alexander and Mara escape to the surface as a huge explosion kills the Morlocks and destroys their caves. With the time machine gone, Alexander begins a new life with Mara and the Eloi. The film ends with two scenes in the same location displayed in parallel: while Alexander shows Mara and Kalen a field that was once his home, Philby and Alexander's housekeeper, Mrs. Watchit, sadly discuss his absence and Philby throws away his own bowler hat. Before leaving Alexander's lab, Mrs. Watchit says, "Godspeed, my fine lad. Godspeed."