A Sound of Thunder

Based on the 1952 short story of the same name, A Sound of Thunder is an awful movie about time travel and the consequences and dangers of doing so. It’s set in 2055, when one company run by a greedy man (Ben Kingsley) sends people back 65 million years to kill a Tyrannosaurus rex that is going to die anyway with ice bullets that will then melt. The idea is that this will ensure that nothing in the past or present is changed, as they also walk on a path hovering above the ground, to ensure that nobody steps on anything.

Anyone heard of the butterfly effect? Well, you’ll be unsurprised to learn that even the smallest event in the past can completely change the future. Step on a butterfly, for example, and all of humanity could be wiped out. Something goes wrong on one of these safari trips, and it’s up to our heroes — led by a doctor named Travis Ryer (Edward Burns) and a woman whose sole purpose is exposition named Sonia (Catherine McCormack) — to fix whatever went wrong in the past, all while time waves alter the present. Apparently all of these changes won’t happen at once, because the movie needs an artificial time limit, I wager.

Essentially, we’re taking a very interesting premise and using it as the basis of an incredibly stupid action movie. After things start going wrong, all that happens is that these people go from place to place trying to figure out what caused the problem in the first place. All while being chased by some of the worst CGI creatures you’ll see from a film with a budget over $50 million. It almost wants to be a mystery film, given how much effort it spends attempting to discover what’s causing all of this.

The problem with that is that we see right off the bat that someone stepped off the path. The camera lingers on a single footprint — why there would only be one is beyond me — on the hovering path, so we know why. Trying to make us wonder and think about this doesn’t work at all. That the characters even look at a recording of their journey and don’t see that makes it infuriating.

Of course, stepping off the path isn’t the only thing that happens. A butterfly also gets killed, in case you needed a greater connection to the butterfly effect. I spoil all of this for you now so that not even a mild curiosity will draw you to this movie. It doesn’t ultimately matter, anyway, what happens, because the solution presented earlier on — the only logical one: go back in time and stop the earlier safari before it begins — means that it doesn’t matter what happens afterward.

“But wait,” I can hear you saying because you haven’t seen the movie and maybe just read the short story once and are basing everything you know about A Sound of Thunder based on that. “There’s totally a message to it, isn’t there?” Well, yes. Yes, there is. It’s “don’t screw with time travel.” I suppose one can also figure out that your actions now affect what happens in the future, but that’s too deep for the film. Also, businessmen are greedy. There are so many fresh and deep ideas presented here that I don’t even know where to begin.

This is probably one of the cheapest looking films you will ever see. Entire sequences look as if they’ve come out of a Playstation 2 game. The entire city in the future is sometimes made of CGI, and it’s so poorly rendered that you have to wonder exactly where the reported $50-80 million went. It’s like they got about halfway through creating the visuals and went “okay, that’s enough of that,” and moved on. To what, exactly, I’m not sure, but the visuals in this film don’t look complete. Even the green screening is terrible. How, for a 2005 film, do you screw that up?

The first scene in A Sound of Thunder depicts a successful T-rex hunt. You’ll have a good feeling of what you’re getting into from this single moment. You’ll see the awful dinosaur, the cheap looking costumes and set, the abhorrent dialogue, and you’ll wonder how anyone looked at this and gave it the okay. It looks worse than several student films out there, and has about as much depth as a butterfly squished between two panes of glass and put on display at a museum. Scratch that, the film has less depth than that.

Just about the only fun you can have from a film like this is to laugh at it every step of the way. I was too bored and uninvolved to do that, but perhaps you will be able to. If nothing else, can we at least all agree that the hair piece put on Ben Kingsley is hilarious? Actually, if Kingley’s character has been around for much of the second act — he disappears for a long stretch, which was too bad — the movie might have been more enjoyable. He at least would have been consistently funny, if only to see the Oscar winner fighting gorilla-lizard-bat hybrids.

A Sound of Thunder was a really enjoyable short story that you might have read in school. The movie adaptation is awful at every turn. There is absolutely nothing to involve you, nothing to make you think, and it doesn’t even contain an enjoyable adventure. It’s bland, looks awful, and will only be enjoyed if you can muster up the energy to make fun of it.

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