If you were expecting a remake of the classic “The Time Machine”, by H.G. Wells, you would be in for a surprise. This Morlocks film is nothing like the original 1960 version with Rod Taylor, or the panned 2002 version starring Guy Pierce as the traveler and Jeremy Irons as the Uber Morlock.
This adaptation takes a decidedly different direction. It stars David Hewlett as Dr. Radnor, the scientist responsible for discovering a time portal, Robert Picardo as the Colonel (with his own agenda), Hammish Clark as Patterson, Christina Cole as Radnor’s colleague/love interest, Marem Hassler as Lt. Cortez, and Lincoln Frager as Captain Finnis.
The story begins with a team of military personnel looking for something. They have set up tents and are surrounded by equipment, so it looks like they will be there a while. There is an attack by an unknown creature and two soldiers investigate, only to discover that their comrades have been killed and whatever killed them is still out there. Panicking, they rush to a military vehicle with a device called a latch. Once inside, they “dial in” to open some kind of energy portal. Unfortunately, the vehicle will not start, which seems to be a common problem for vehicles in action movies where several “red shirts”, or disposable characters, need to be eliminated.
Just after her partner gets pulled from the vehicle by one of the creatures, the driver finally starts the engine and drives through the portal. Somehow, she has also been attacked, although, how that happened is not very clear. On the other side of the portal appears to be an underground facility. The vehicle has come to a stop on top of some sort of raised platform, which begs the question, how did they get that big heavy vehicle up there in the first place. Anyway, the soldier is pulled from the vehicle by a military officer. As she lies on the platform dying, the officer questioning her wants to know what happened to the Latch. With her last breath, she informs him it has been left on the other side.
David Hewlett makes his first appearance in the film as an author doing a reading from his book, “Time Travelers Strife”. At first, the title of the book reminded me of the book and film called “The Time Travelers Wife”, but as the film continues, it’s plain that this is nothing to do with this second story. Instead, it foreshadows what is to come. As Hewlett’s character, James Radnor, finishes his reading, he notices that two men in suits who are very official looking, appear. He attempts to elude them, but is not very successful.
He is out manoeuvred and directed into a vehicle. The woman inside, we learn, is his ex-wife, Angela (Christina Cole). She has a problem. There’s been an accident. As she speaks to him, Radnor notices that Angela is wearing a necklace that contains a refraction crystal from the device he invented. She convinces him to go with her to the underground facility. Angela pauses for a moment to apologize to Radnor for not convincing him to stay in the program. Radnor, appalled, replies, “People died because of me, because of my arrogance”.
Enter Colonel Wichita (Robert Picardo) with his typical deadpan expression as he meets Dr. James Radnor (David Hewlett) who easily maintains a snarky attitude that fans have become very familiar with. Throughout the movie, I kept thinking, “hey, it’s McKay. Rodney is back.” For those who don’t know, I am referring to the character that David Hewlett is most well known for, Dr. Rodney McKay, from Star Gate Atlantis. David Hewlett has always done snarky very well. Morlocks is no exception. It is nice to also see Hewlett back with Robert Picardo again. Picardo played Richard Wolsey, also in Star Gate Atlantis. I would have loved to be a fly on the wall when Picardo and Hewlett were on set together. I’m sure the crew spent most of the time laughing. Both men can be hilarious.
As the story progresses, the conversation between Radnor and the general is enlightening. Wichita states, “This country is falling behind. Mining the future for technology can put us back on top.” This doesn’t sit well with Radnor. He is then introduced to Dr. Felix Watkins(Jesse Steele) who appears to be as arrogant as our dear colonel. As Radnor continues to have trouble believing that the colonel and this self important scientist have been foolish enough to open a rip into the future, he discovers that they have left the very important device on the other side of the time portal.
As they are speaking, the portal begins to function. Scientists and armed soldiers hurry into the area. Radnor is fascinated, Angela is fearful. She wants to get out of the area. The fear factor is ratcheted up a bit more as the cries of the creatures that killed the other soldiers come through the rip, followed by two of the creatures. They are not easily affected by the soldier’s rifle fire.
As they approach Radnor and Angela, one is eventually killed, and the other explodes as the Captain Finnis (Lincoln Frager) shows up and fires a more powerful weapon at it. Radnor and Angela get covered in the creature’s blood. Thus ends my illusion that I’m watching a new episode of Atlantis. Stargate never had that much blood.
As they discuss what just happened, it appears, as Radnor points out, that they are, “screwed”. The portal is staying open longer and is growing in size. Also, there seems to be no evidence of human life on the other side. Angela suggests that it should be a priority try to find out what happened to humanity. But that idea is dropped as the method for retrieving the latch, so called because it anchors a specific time in the future to a specific time in the past – their current time, is planned.
The priority, then, is for Radnor to go through the portal, fix the device and come back again. Radnor has a great line, and it’s pure McKay snark, “Let me see if I got this straight: You want me to travel through a rip in time, find and repair a device that you lost and broke, all the while trying to avoid rampaging creatures from the future. That about sum it up?”
Radnor and several soldiers, all geared up, go through the rip. Tyrell and Pitt, two of the soldiers, accompany Radnor as he begins searching for the latch. Just after they leave, Colonel Wichita returns to his office, turns on his computer and displays an image of a person with terminal cancer. It is his son. We segue back to the future. There are ruins and decomposing bodies everywhere. It does not take long before they run into trouble. Radnor has an electromagnetic (E.M) detector that leads him to the latch.
As he reaches to get it, Tyrell tells him if he wants to keep his hand, he’d better pull it back and back away. He looks up and sees what looks like a cross between a featherless ostrich and turkey gazing hungrily down at him. Instead of shooting it, everybody runs toward an abandoned building. Tyrell radios it in and they dash inside. The big bird follows. Tyrell and Pitt shoot until its dead. Backing up, they find that there is another one behind them. That creature is quickly dispatched as well.
Once back in the open, a whole flock of the bird creatures show up and the group is forced to retreat to a rusted out bus. As they manage to dispatch another large number of the creatures, something frightens the rest of them off. It’s Radnor’s old team, the ones he thought he had killed, lead by Patterson (Hammish Clark).
Back at the base, Angela is dissecting one of the creatures they killed. She has determined that they are primarily nocturnal. Wichita enters. He is more interested in a DNA test than anything else. In fact, he’s quite obsessed with it. Angela has an obsession of her own. She feels she should have accompanied Radnor and his team to the future. But with his own agenda as his focus, Wichita isn’t about to let that happen. Radnor explains that Patterson’s team was the first team through the rip.
As the group continue to walk, Patterson tells everyone that they have to get underground because, “they hunt at night”. Tyrell wants to know how Patterson’s group scared the bird creatures away. Cortez (Marem Hassler) shows them the vocal chords of a Morlock. She explains that they found some newspapers and that’s what people called them. As Tyrell does the obvious and attempts to try it out by blowing through the boney structure, Cortez grabs it and tells him, “you don’t want to do that. They scare predators, but they attract Morlocks”.
In the underground facility, Angela has more information for Wichita. The creatures have the same DNA as humans. Wichita doesn’t really seem interested in anything she has to say except that they need to get the DNA to the hospital. As they talk, there is an E.M spike. They haven’t received a message from the team yet, but something is coming through the rip. Angela, hopeful that it’s Radnor and the team returning, rushes into the embarkation room. There is a malfunction and the security door locks, leaving Angela to face what ever is coming through. Bad luck. It’s the Morlocks!
We head back to the future, where the group has found their way to what is left of the underground facility. The facility has power and partial use of the security system. They watch an image on a monitor of a conversation between Wichita and Angela. They discover that the Morlocks have human DNA. They also see Angela get taken by the Morlocks. Radnor wants to save his ex-wife.
But that’s not the plan. Patterson tells him that if he does anything but find and fix the latch he’s putting all of their lives at risk. Radnor still wants to try to fix more than just the latch. If they could just go to another city, maybe they could find out what happened and fix things, or stop it all from happening in the first place. Sadly, it’s not to be. No one is interested in Radnor’s desire to fix the world.
As they hunker down inside the abandoned facility for the night, the Morlocks have come out to hunt. They are after the bird-like creatures. One of them reaches for the latch as it rests in a nest. We can only assume that the Morlocks have an interest in it. Maybe they are not as dumb as they look. One of the things I can’t figure out is why there are so many bon fires burning all over the place. If the human race has disappeared a long time ago, who set the fires? Who is keeping them going?
Radnor’s group discuss the Morlocks and the world as it has become. Patterson reveals that the Morlocks not only have slaughtered half his team, but they take captives back to a “nest” where they can save their catch for later. Tyrell does his best to hit on Cortez but she’s not buying what he is offering. That’s when they notice that the Morlocks have found them. They lose a soldier before they manage to retreat further into the building. They run down a long hallway with the Morlocks close at their heels, shooting at them and killing them with only one or two bullets. These Morlocks don’t seem quite as invincible as the ones that came through the portal at the beginning of the movie. As the group escape one by one out of the hatch, some explosives are rigged and the whole place goes up behind them.
Colonel Wichita is at it again. Believing Angela to be dead, he now directs his attention toward Dr. Watkins. He wants that DNA, telling Watkins that the creatures are far superior to humans in many ways, especially in their ability to fight off disease. He is determined ,despite any argument that Watkins may have, to get the DNA to the hospital and to his son.
When the team returns to the last place the latch was seen, they discover that it is gone. Patterson reasons that the Morlocks took it because they collect junk. Radnor asks why. Patterson replies, “Because they are American.” Then he adds that they are always collecting old junk like toasters and other stuff. As they talk, Radnor discovers Angela’s necklace lying in the dirt. The Morlocks have taken her. It seems that everyone has come to an agreement. They are now headed toward a huge dam to look for the latch.
Well, everyone but Radnor. He still expects to look for Angela. The dam makes the perfect location for the Morlocks who seem to have an aversion to day light. Pitt, Cortez and Tyrell head off in one direction while Radnor and the captain head off in another. Pitt and Tyrell quickly lose track of Cortez. As they wander through the tunnels inside the dam, they hear noises that spook them. Concentrating on what may be coming from one direction, they don’t look behind them. A shot is fired. It kills a Morlock behind the two men. They realize that Cortez used them as bait. Again, this is an example where one shot kills a Morlock where emptying an entire clip into one of them at the beginning of the film didn’t slow them down.
Radnor parts ways with the captain and goes after Angela. He finds her trapped inside a cell. She is able to climb through the ceiling with his help. Meanwhile, the captain has found the latch. As he reaches it, Tyrell contacts him by radio. The Morlocks are everywhere. Hanging from the ceiling like overgrown bats seems to be what they do best. As they wake up, thanks to noisy military types that don’t seem to understand the concept of keeping quiet, they end up in another running gun fight with Morlocks after them yet again.
Not to be forgotten, Wichita receives bad news from Dr. “Downer” Watkins. The dead Morlock’s tissues began degrading very fast after death. If Wichita wants DNA, they will need a live sample. Continuing in their struggle to escape, the group have lost Patterson to the Morlocks. They find themselves in a working elevator and head up to the exit. However, the Morlocks have other ideas. From inside the elevator, they can here the creatures jump onto the top of it. As Radnor attempts to fix the latch, the others fire their weapons at the ceiling. This is a perfect environment for Rodney McKay to shine.
Unfortunately, this isn’t really Rodney McKay. Radnor finds that the latch is damaged, but he takes the crystal from Angela’s necklace and in moments has it fixed. He’s just in time since the Morlocks have somehow caused the elevator to free fall toward the ground. There is a flash as Radnor presses the activation switch and the elevator appears inside the embarkation room back in their own time. They are home. Radnor is looking forward to bashing the latch into small pieces with a hammer. However, Wichita has other ideas. He orders a soldier to relieve Radnor of the device. They escort him to a holding area. They also discover that one of the Morlocks came back with them and is injured, but alive.
The colonel drops by to visit Radnor in his cell and explains that he has a son that will benefit from the DNA. The Morlocks are stronger and more resistant to disease. They originally had planned to use Radnor’s device to bring back technology from the future and that was what they would continue to do. Radnor argues, “I’ve seen the future. I know what happens. If you use Morlock DNA to save your son. If you play God, it’s going to guarantee that what I witnessed comes true.”
Angela catches up to Dr. Watkins as he busily works in his lab. The Morlock is restrained nearby. They discover that the team had only gone ahead in time by 68 years, so what happens to humanity will happen soon. When Angela attempts to remove pieces from the latch, Watkins stops her then rants that this time he is going to be the one who makes the discoveries and gets the credit. As he rants, the Morlock wakes up and attacks him, throwing him through a window to the floor of the embarkation room.
As the Morlock continues to attack, something happens and the time portal activates. Morlocks begin coming through over-running the base. Wichita orders the base to be sealed. Soldiers engage in another fire fight with the Morlocks. These soldiers must be using rubber bullets because, again, the Morlocks are resistant to getting shot. Angela uses the distraction of the Morlock invasion to free Radnor.
This is when it appears that Wichita has truly lost it, gone crackers, his elevator doesn’t go to the top floor, the light is on but nobody is home, and my personal favourite – he is completely wacko. Attempting to control the situation, he ignores a request for backup from several soldiers who are being overrun. A subordinate shows him an image of a hangar bay open to the outside with no Morlocks inside. They appear to be afraid of the sunlight. The subordinate suggests destroying the latch to stop the invasion.
Not only does Wichita not listen, he states that he is overriding containment protocol. Then he shoots the subordinate in the head as the man objects. Meanwhile, Radnor and Angela are attempting to escape in the middle of a battle. They come to the conclusion that they have to destroy the latch. Wichita continues to be sneaky.
He returns to his office and uploads what must be the DNA information to an outside source, likely the hospital where his son is being treated. However, he loses contact when the phone line goes down. Radnor and Angela arrive at the embarkation room. The latch is on the floor next to the prone body of Dr. Watkins. It is irreparably damaged.
The captain, who was in the shadows behind them comes forward ready to assist the two scientists. Radnor argues that they need to destabilize the rip. Easier done than said. The captain throws a grenade into the rip. It works. Now they just need a bigger explosion. “If there is one thing the army does well, it’s blowing things up,” offers the captain. But Wichita continues to get in the way. He rounds the corner and shoots the captain. Fortunately, as a marksman, the colonel is a great paper pusher. The captain survives. There is a tussle and Wichita gets pushed into the rip. The captain figures he’s dead anyway since he suffers from a gut shot, so he volunteers to go through and set off the charges. Radnor and Angela run to the hanger bay.
They discover that they have company. Cortez and Tyrell are in a helicopter preparing to take off, but they are also being approached by several Morlocks. Tyrell waves them over to the chopper, but seeing that the creatures are gaining on them, he shouts at them to get into s nearby tank. They reach the tank in the nick of time. Tyrell and Cortez take off and fire the chopper’s machine guns at the creatures. One gets away and jumps onto the tail of the aircraft causing it to crash. Fortunately, all they did was destroy the chopper and kill the Morlock.
They both make it out okay and join Radnor and Angela in the tank. At that moment, the captain, on the other side of the rip, and being approached by the Morlocks,uses his pistol to create the massive explosion they need to close the rift. The power of the explosion kills all but one of the Morlocks. Tyrell gets the last Morlock in the tank’s sights and gives Radnor the opportunity to fire the last shot. They are safe, and backup arrives, just in time to mop up the mess in the form of more troops and helicopters.
There is only one loose end. What happened to Colonel Wichita’s son. It turns out that the hospital, and the specific doctor involved did receive the uploaded DNA. He has begun using it on the young man, the colonels son, who is now showing obvious signs that the Morlocks will return because he is “Patient Zero” or the original Morlock and the ultimate “chicken or the egg” paradox.
What I liked about this film, is, of course, David Hewlett. No matter what he is in, no matter what kind of film, he is interesting to watch. Robert Picardo is also multitalented. It also looks like the producers were very clever with the money they spent on special effects, which must have taken the lion’s share of the budget.
What I didn’t like about Morlocks, is the inconsistency of the effect of the weapons as the soldiers fired on the Morlocks. It also seemed unlikely that Radnor and Andrea would not yell a warning to all the soldiers running into the battle with the Morlocks when they knew that the facility was about to be destroyed. The final concern was how fast the sun seemed to set. One moment it looked like mid-day and the Morlocks would not go near the hangar bay, then, suddenly, it was night, and the creatures were all over the place.
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