NEW YORK (Reuters) - A cinematic love story about a time traveler popping in and out of his wife's life is looking to emulate the success of the bestselling debut novel it is based on, but early reviews of the film show an uphill battle.
"The Time Traveler's Wife," which opened in the United States, Canada and Britain on Friday, is billed as a romance more than a sci-fi fantasy by Time Warner Inc's Warner Bros Pictures and faces tough competition from summer blockbusters like "G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra."
Starring Eric Bana and Rachel McAdams, the film is adapted from the 2003 bestselling debut novel of the same name by U.S. author Audrey Niffenegger that has sold nearly 2.5 million copies in Britain and the United States.
"We saw it as a romance, as an epic love story. We tried to tread as lightly as possible with the time travel," the film's German director, Robert Schwentke, told reporters recently, pointing to several changes from the book's plot and a heavier concentration on the romantic angle.
Reviews released Friday said the plot -- which centers on Bana's character, who is unable to control an ability to vault through time -- hit trouble translating onto the big screen.
Britain's The Guardian newspaper called it "an outrageously daft, but occasionally entertaining Hollywood movie," while USA Today, called the film "dull and sappy."
The film's writer, Bruce Joel Rubin, said the story would appeal to women because the film's concept of time travel -- which included showing Bana's character unexpectedly leaving his wife -- explored the hardships of abandonment.
"I suspect many women have this experience or fear of abandonment by their husbands," said Rubin. "That they will leave them emotionally, leave them physically, make them feel unprotected, and this is a story about a woman who is being left everyday."
He said he could not afford to worry about whether fans of Niffenegger's novel would be open to the omission of characters and plot points.
"My wife goes on the Internet ... and she tells me that there are people who are already angry at me," Rubin said. "I can't write this movie for everybody out there nor can I care about what they think."
Niffenegger, 46, who received a $5 million advance for her second novel, said in an e-mail that she had not seen the film and was not commenting publicly on the movie.
Some reviewers applauded the performances of Bana, an Australian actor, and McAdams, a Canadian who has just finished shooting a film adaptation of "Sherlock Holmes" with Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law.
"This film made me think about going back and seeing the people that you love in a different time, like seeing my parents fall in love or seeing them as children," McAdams said.
Editing by Michelle Nichols