"A Sound of Thunder" blunders

Sept. 8, 2005, midnight | By Baijia Jiang | 18 years, 10 months ago

The best way to describe Peter Hyam's new sci-fi adventure movie "A Sound of Thunder" is a good idea gone bad - horribly bad. Based on Ray Bradbury's short story of the same name, the movie combines the originally interesting themes of time travel and evolution and mixes them into a jumbled mess, leaving viewers wanting to thunder out the door.

Set in 2055 in Chicago, "A Sound of Thunder" follows Time Safari Inc., a time travel adventure company owned by sleazy businessman Charles Hatton (Ben Kingsley), which takes wealthy millionaires back 65 million years in time to hunt dinosaurs. Hatton and company, including reluctant lead scientist Dr. Travis Ryer (Edward Burns), take extreme pains to prevent altering history when they "jump" back in time, picking and killing a dinosaur that is slated to die five minutes later in a volcano eruption. There are only three rules to the jump: Never bring anything back, never leave anything behind, and never walk off the path.

But of course, all rules must be broken. After an especially close encounter with a dinosaur, one of the bumbling clients accidentally brings something back to the present, changing the entire course of evolution. And so Ryer and Sofia Rand (Catherine McCormack), the brilliant scientist who invented the time travel technology, set off into a jungle infested Chicago to reverse time and set everything back the way it was, all the while avoiding "time waves," ripples in time that bring about bizarre evolutionary changes, such as baboon-faced dinosaurs, giant carnivorous bats, and a dragon-like sea serpent.

Though the concept of the "butterfly effect" was promising, Hyam's application is anything but. It seems the director was more focused on packing as much action into the film as possible rather than explaining how a change, however small, can alter the course of evolution and history. McCormack's character attempts to explain the science behind the madness, but she gives up halfway through the movie, and audiences are left to decipher the rest on their own.

Based on their halfhearted performances, the actors in the film are also some of the year's worst. Burns, the title character, does not put any emotion into his wooden and forced presentation, and Kingsley, who won an Oscar for his 1982 role as Gandhi, fails to live up to expectations with his ridiculous white Mohawk hairstyle and tanned skin. Kingsley is supposed to be a ruthless businessman but is instead wishy-washy, putting no conviction behind his words. McCormack as Sofia Rand is only slightly better, believably playing the part of a grudging English scientist whose work was by stolen Hatton.

The actors are not aided by the script either, which lacks any attempts of humor or charm. Dialogue between characters is cheesy and cliché to action movies. "It wasn't just a bug we stepped on," Ryer says, for example, "It was evolution." And although the writers attempted to fill in back stories for the characters, these are too abandoned in lieu of clunky camera shots of more action scenes.

The list of vices for "A Sound of Thunder" can go on, but none is worse than the special effects. The movie arguably applies the worst use of greenscreen modern audiences have ever seen. When the team stands on the pathway, or when characters are walking against a futuristic background, viewers are reminded of "Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow," whose look is intentionally artificial. Also, most of the monsters, especially the sea serpent, are suggestive of violent video game monsters. They look comical instead of scary, and it is these CGI-disasters that have destroyed all the roads paved by digital works of art, such as Peter Jackson's "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy.

All in all, "A Sound of Thunder" is a film so bad that it isn't even entertaining besides a few cheap thrills and some short bursts of action. Its unexplained plotline, wooden acting, weak script and below-par special effects make what started off as an intriguing subject no more than just another cheesy, cliché flop.

"A Sound of Thunder" (103 minutes, area theatres) is rated PG-13 for partial nudity and sci-fi violence.

Baijia Jiang. Baijia is a Magnet junior who loves watching movies and TV in her little spare time and can spout out arbitrary entertainment facts at the drop of a hat. She counts herself as an expert on all matters relating to "The Lord of the Rings" … More »

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