A Sound of Thunder (2005) / Sci Fi-Action
MPAA Rated: PG-13 for violence and language
Running Time: 103 min.
Cast: Edward Burns, Ben Kingsley, Catherine McCormack, Jemima Rooper, Wilfried Hochholdinger, August Zimer, Corey Johnson
Director: Peter Hyams
Screenplay: Thomas Dean Donnelly, Joshua Oppenheimer, Gregory Poirier (based on the short story by Ray Bradbury)
Review published September 4, 2005
"We can fix this!"
"No, you can't! Nobody can!"
At around the 2/3 mark of the film, these words were said by two of the characters in a heated exchange, ostensibly about the fact that life on Earth would be changed permanently, effectively rendering the human race obsolete. As I sat there and heard the exchange, I couldn't help but also think that at the time the screenwriters of the film wrote those words, they were thinking the same thing about the movie as a whole. To think that it all started with a very intriguing classic short story by Ray Bradbury, full of interesting concepts about time travel and the dangers of tampering with the past. Now that the film has come out, the only past that should have never been tampered with can rightfully be seen as adapting that story from the 1950s without having the budget, cast, crew, or creative talent to do so. If only someone could build a time machine to go back and erase the drawing board where this dreck was thought up!
The setting of A Sound of Thunder is in Chicago, half a century from today. A means for time travel has been discovered, and is now being exploited purely as a business venture, Time Safari, allowing rich men to live out their wildest fantasies of being prehistoric dinosaur hunters. The only stipulation is that the dinosaur that they hunt has to be one that is mere seconds from dying anyway, so that the future will not be altered. The laws of time travel have one that has gone unwritten -- Murphy's Law -- and something does eventually go wrong. As the latest team of dinosaur hunters returns to the present, they begin to discover that the Earth they knew is slightly different from the one they left, and it is growing progressively more weird. It becomes obvious that someone did something they weren't supposed to in the very distant past, and that the crew of time travelers must fix the past to stop the present from being our future.
The first thing that is obviously wrong about A Sound of Thunder is the quality of the special effects, which may be the least convincing I've seen in a major studio release in a very long time. Perhaps as the cut scenes of a video game, they might be par for the course, but green screens, computer images, and poorly rendered creature models leave this film looking laughable. If I were a person living in the Chicago of the future, I would think I had definitely entered a virtual reality world, since everything looks so fake. In fact, once I traveled to the past and saw what passes for a dinosaur, I would assume that I were in another virtual reality realm, not really in the past, and I'd demand my money back.
I probably wouldn't be the only one demanding money back, since there will obviously be those unlucky souls that will shell out their hard-earned cash to see this cheeseball fiasco. It starts off looking bad, but the high-concept plot inspired by Ray Bradbury's original story does have the benefit of at least holding your interest. At the same time that something goes terribly wrong in the story, so does it for the movie, and no amount of backtracking will ever be able to fix the train wreck that A Sound of Thunder becomes for the final 45 minutes. It's Jurassic Park meets Planet of the Apes, almost literally, except that this dud doesn't have the special effects budget or interesting plot developments to keep this dinosaur from sinking in the morass that engulfs the last vestiges of inspiration that had been the spark that caused this movie to be made to begin with.
As the Earth of the film changes to the point where human beings are on the verge of never existing, the thought occurred to me that this seemingly horrific turn of events may not be so bad after all. If we never existed as a species, this movie would never have been made, I would never have seen it, and I would never have to endure the injustice of having to think about it for an hour as I type this review. If you're someone that is reading this now because you are contemplating viewing this abysmal clunker, take it from this traveler that has gone down the same road you are about to travel and rethink this course of action. The lesser the amount of people that pay money to suffer the indignity of seeing this movie, the less likely that movie studios will spend that money to fund similar dreadful projects in the future, and hopefully through this warning, I have done my part in making the world a better place by doing so.
p.s. One final thought -- Which is the happier ending? An overcrowded, polluted world where nearly every other animal has ceased to exist out of captivity except for humans, or a natural, untainted world where all of the animals live and roam freely because humans have never been part of the equation?
©2005 Vince Leo