This film could have been titled “There Will Be Beef.”
"Timeline" is inspired by on a Michael Crichton story that's not so much about travel between the past and the present as about travel between two movie genres.
After opening on an archeological dig (evoking memories of "Indiana Jones," "The Exorcist" and "The Omen"), it's a corporate thriller crossed with a medieval swashbuckler. The corporation has discovered a way to beam objects from one place to another and has big plans: It wants to put Federal Express out of business. Alas, its teleportation machine intersects with a wormhole and inadvertently sends a group of scientists back into 14th century France.
So far I don't have a problem. I'll accept any premise that gets me into a good movie. But why can the screenwriters Jeff Maguire and George Nolfi think of nothing more interesting for their heroes to do than immerse themselves in a medieval swashbuckler? Why travel 600 years into the past just so you can play "I Capture the Castle?" The movie follows the modern formula in which story is secondary to action, and the plot is essentially a frame for action scenes. I undertand this is not the case with the Crichton novel, unread by me.
The movie has been directed by Richard Donner, who has given me some splendid times at the movies. His "Superman" (1978) remains one of the great superhero epics; his "Lethal Weapon" (1987) made my best 10 list and "Lethal Weapon 2" (1989) was almost as good, and he made a lighthearted version of "Maverick" (1994) with Mel Gibson that brought cheer to the Western genre. But here I think he got off on the wrong foot, with a story whose parts don't fit.