A Sound of Thunder

Good intentions aside, A Sounder of Thunder takes a fascinating Ray Bradbury idea and mutates it into a bald tire of a movie which never gets a grip on the material. When I first read about A Sound of Thunder, I was excited. I love time travel movies, especially those which tinker with the fabric of time. A Sound of Thunder tinkles on the fabric of time, leaving a wet, soggy, and extremely unpleasant experience best suited for a litter box.

I haven’t been this disappointed with a time travel film since Millennium, another captivating idea ruined by bad acting, stilted dialogue, guide-dog direction, and special visual effects obviously generated from a Commodore 64 computer. Millennium was about a dying futuristic race who used time travel to abduct healthy humans from natural disasters, replacing them with lifeless clones. Good idea, ruined by the mechanical acting of Kris Kristofferson and Cheryl Ladd.

A Sound of Thunder is so bad it’s almost fun, but that’s a very non-committal almost. With a flimsy, derivative script and phone-in direction, A Sound of Thunder turns an eternal what if into a monumental who cares. What if man could travel back in time and hunt dinosaur? Would changing the past affect the future, our present? If those changes were made, could they be reversed?

Who cares? Not the filmmakers of A Sound of Thunder, who lay the groundwork for grand entertainment and then screw the audience by not delivering. Ben Kingsley plays Charles Hatton, the ham without wry owner of Time Safari, Inc., whose company uses the pilfered (and untested) time travel process developed by physicist Dr. Sonia Rand (Catherine McCormack). For a fee, Hatton will propel guests back to the Cretaceous Era for a well-planned dinosaur hunt. Guests must abide by strict guidelines or risk altering the evolution of the planet.

Anyone who has ever visited a cinematic amusement park (Jurassic Park, Westworld) knows if something can go wrong, it will, and sure enough, when a guest accidentally treads on history, Chicago 2055 begins to mutate into a primordial jungle filled with evolutionary beasts intent on reclaiming the earth. With a new time wave enveloping the city every 24 hours, it’s only a matter of days before humans become extinct.

Quite frankly, if this ragtag group of actors represents our hope for the future, then we’re all dinosaur poop. Edward Burns lacks any authority as the DNA expert who leads the expeditions. Dr. Travis Ryer (Burns) realizes he’s in cahoots with an entrepreneurial madman, but agrees to lead the hunts in order to advance his experiments. The moral conflict is totally lost on Ryer, who leaps from one outrageous moment to the next without any emotional resonance. Burns understands his characters place in this vast void and reacts accordingly.

Catharine McCormack looks equally uncomfortable as the films voice of reason, expected to deliver psycho-babble with a straight face. McCormack delivers every line as if she’s asking us if we buy any of it. We don’t. We’re just here for the ride. Peter Hyams used to be a pretty decent science-fiction pilot, but A Sound of Thunder feels like it was directed on auto drive. It’s generic and phony, an obvious example of how low-budget special effects can ruin a big budget film.

Not once do we believe the characters and the visual effects share the same frame, then again, we never believe the actors and their brains share the same space, so all is well in this dark and depressing world gone wild.

Thunder BlunderSci-Fi Sound Leaves Logic on MuteA Sound of Thunder

Edward Burns, Catherine McCormack, Ben Kingsley. Directed by Peter Hyams. Rated PG-13. 103 Minutes.

Larsen Rating: $2.00

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