A SOUND OF THUNDER
*1/2 (out of 5)
September 2, 2005
Edward Burns as TRAVIS RYER
Ben Kingsley as CHARLES HATTON
Catherine McCormack as SONIA RAND
Jemima Rooper as JENNY KRASE
Wilfried Hochholdinger as DR. LUCAS
August Zirner as CLAY DERRIS
Corey Johnson as CHRISTINA MIDDLETON
Studio: Warner Bros.
Directed by: Peter Hyams
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
Normally, I love time travel movies. I’ve always loved time travel stories – from pulp science fiction in the old magazines to about half of the episodes of “Star Trek.” However, aside from movies like “The Terminator” franchise, time travel stories have been stinking up the theaters.
The last two major time travel stories I remember were “The Butterfly Effect” and “Timeline.” Both of these films were sorely disappointing and didn’t even deliver a decent time travel plot. The aforementioned “Star Trek” episodes always did it so much better.
I first saw trailers for “A Sound of Thunder” last summer. And it wasn’t even the teaser trailers meant to get people excited about a movie. It was a full-blown trailer. However, the movie never came out. (Later, I learned this pushing back of the release date was due to a bankruptcy in the production, which would explain strike two, detailed below.)
When I saw it was finally being released, I was intrigued. I wasn’t excited, mind you, because it was a Peter Hyams film. Considering that “Time Cop” was probably the height of his quality in the last two decades, this seemed to be a bad indicator. After all, this guy is responsible for some of the lamest science fiction (and non-science fiction) pieces of cinema history. He’s been giving us crap since “Capricorn One” in the 1970s.
But I still tried to go in with an open mind… I tried.
This film is a loose adaptation of the classic Ray Bradbury story. It’s not the greatest story ever written, but it was one of the first to really contemplate the long-term damage time travel might have to the world. While the story had a serious political bent, this movie threw that aside for insanely bad science and some weak attempts at action.
The company Time Safari has perfected time travel and uses it to send rich thrill-seekers into the past to hunt dinosaurs. They have tons of safeguards against altering Earth’s timeline – like only killing a dinosaur that would be wiped out by a volcanic eruption five minutes later – yet they still manage to cause a problem. After one jump, they return to the present to find things starting to change.
With time ripples periodically ripping through the present, changing evolution with each wave, the characters much find a way to go back and fix what went wrong. It’s too bad they couldn’t travel back in time and stop this movie from being made. That would have been the best fix of them all.
The first strike against the film was that it starred Edward Burns, the most wooden actor in Hollywood today. I think Al Gore is more stimulating of a presence than this guy has been. I haven’t seen Burns in a film for two years (a godsend in itself), and hopefully this film will bury his career.
The second strike against the film was the embarrassingly bad special effects. The movie opens with the group hunting a dinosaur, which looked like an old animatic from “The Land of the Lost.” I don’t insist upon perfection in digital effects, but I would at least expect a summer blockbuster to have dinosaurs that were at least as good as those in the first “Jurassic Park.” It is decade-old technology, after all.
But the bad effects don’t end with the dinos. Director Peter Hyams enlists the help of blue screens to make the world of the future. However, the compositing is so bad that it looks like it was put together on a home computer. In another scene, two actors are literally walking in place as the background moves. I’ve seen better compositing on the six o’clock news.
The final strike was some absolutely dreadful science. I know that science fiction films usually have their problems, and I’m not asking every movie to be “2001: A Space Odyssey.” However, when you seem to base your science on Ivan Reitman’s flop “Evolution,” I have no respect for the film.
If I had seen “A Sound of Thunder” on the SciFi Channel as a low-budget original movie, I still wouldn’t like it, but I would have accepted it. As an end-of-the-summer blockbuster, there’s just no excuse.