Review: Sound of Thunder, A

Posted by: Dean Kish  //  September 2, 2005 @ 11:59am

Filed under: Reviews

A Sound of Thunder could be the worst science fiction film I have seen since Battlefield Earth, and this time we can't blame Travolta. Wanna know why?

A Sound of Thunder is based on a classic Ray Bradbury story that chronicles what happens when man steps back into the distant past and changes the smallest of things like killing the tiniest of insect, dropping a gum wrapper, or picking a flower. One of these smallest of changes could bring about the end of the world as we know it.

In the year 2055, TimeSafari is making a killing as it takes millionaires and other spoiled rich people back to the age of dinosaurs on the "greatest hunt man has ever known". The brain behind this venture is Charles Hatton (Ben Kingsley), who loves money more than common sense, hence the reason he is now worth billions. Leading the safaris and trying to maintain an ethical look under Hatton's shadow is Travis Ryer (Edward Burns) who one day wants to use TimeSafari's technology to better mankind.

As all these kinds of stories go, something goes terribly wrong and 2055 begins to change from what Ryer and Hatton remember it being. Ryer teams up with a revolutionary scientist Sonia Rand (Catherine McCormack) to uncover what went wrong on their last safari and to fix it if they can.

We have seen this kind of time-travel story before " or is it just me that all time machine stories are basically the same? Anyways, that is the least of the film's problems.

Let us examine some of the obvious problems with the film.

One, the visual effects are juvenile at best. Some of the creature effects are passable and interesting, but also utterly soulless and stiff in places. It is almost like the studio forgot to finish some of the effects. Also, why did two of the major conversations in the film have to be staged in the middle of a busy street that is filmed in front of horrendously bad blue screen?

The second is the implausibility of how things change when time is altered. The film says that time changes like ripples when a stone hits water, thus the explanation for the film's utterly stupid "time waves". It doesn't make sense. Then there is all the other sci-fi techno-babble that is just so baffling.

Thirdly, there is the production design, from the goofy plastic helmets, toy laser rifles made from some bad plastic, the ridiculous "ape-tors" who hunt our heroes, and of course Ben Kingsley's "jet-white" spiked hair. I do have to say the helmets and guns look like they were stolen from the wardrobe of the classic Irwin Allen TV series, Lost in Space.

Fourth, the script is just so bad I had a hard time listening to any of these people, and furthermore, the acting was wooden and vacuous. Even Kingsley looked bored beyond all recognition.

I could go on and on about more ridiculous and awful things in this film, but some you just have to see to believe. Like how about a love scene without even a single kiss? And, no, there was no time machine involved.

I like Edward Burns, but would somebody get this man a real agent because his imaginary friend just isn't doing the proper job. After this and 15 Minutes, Edward Burns will be working on the Lifetime Network before he can say "cheese". I often refer to the Lifetime Network as the network where good actors go to die.

I have liked a lot of director Peter Hyams' films dating all the way back to 1978's Capricorn One. Actually, there have been a lot of his films which I would think would make good rentals, including 1981's Outland, 1984's 2010, 1986's Running Scared, 1988's The Presidio, 1992's Stay Tuned, 1994's Timecop, and 1997's The Relic. The man isn't a genius behind the camera, but he has done a lot of good B-movies and some memorable flicks. But after this movie, 1999's End of Days, and 2001's The Musketeer, Hyams needs to take a vacation and maybe one day soon he will bring back the fun B-films of yesterday that he was good at making.

This film's only redeeming feature is probably the dusty, dated original short story written by Ray Bradbury. (1 out of 5) So Says the Soothsayer.

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