Director: Peter Hyams
Cast: Edward Burns, Catherine McCormack, Ben Kingsley
MPAA Rating: PG-13Length: 110 minutes.
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There’s A Sound, But It’s Definitely Not Thunder
A Sound of Thunder is the big budget adaptation of Ray Bradbury’s novel with the same name. In that last sentence I emphasize the word BIG BUDGET because when you watch this film it’s nearly impossible to believe that 80 million dollars was spent on production.
The film tells a decent story about the dangers of time travel and the butterfly effect … props to Ray Bradbury. Unfortunately this futuristic story is completely undermined by poor set designs, a wardrobe from the early 2000’s, and some of the worst CG effects I’ve seen in a big budget 21st century film.
A Sound of Thunder makes a sound that can only be described as a whimper.
Set in Chicago in the year 2055, a company called Time Safari, run by Charles Hatton (Ben Kingsley) takes people back in time to the Cretaceous Period to hunt predatory dinosaurs. These expeditions are led by Travis Ryer (Edward Burns) who is a world leading scientist participating in these excursions so that he can fund his research to bring back the world’s now extinct animals.
Despite warnings from one of the time machines original designers, Sonia Rand (Catherine McCormick), these expeditions continue until one of the safaris goes wrong, which results in the alteration of evolution and the future of the world.
I’ve never read the short story this movie was based off of, but learning that Bradbury’s novel preceded the term “butterfly effect,” makes his story all the more impressive. The butterfly effect is a common device used in fiction when dealing with time travel – it in itself basically causes all the external conflict you could ever hope for in a work of fiction. This is a story that, with today’s technology, should be translated into a fun and entertaining action film.
In order to pull off this story though, there needs to be a top notch special effects and graphics team. With a big budget this is certainly affordable and top notch film production values are expected – and in order to make the dangers of this story believable these elements of film production are essential.
I may be stating the obvious here, but this film apparently didn’t get the memo. A Sound of Thunder has embarrassingly bad CG graphics. In the first major CG scene, when the Allosaurus confronts the Time Safari hunters, the appearance of this beast looks nothing like a threatening dinosaur we’re supposed to believe it is. Watching the actors interact with this monster is comical, to see people react to something that looks so horribly unrealistic is entertaining for all of the wrong reasons. And that’s not the worst to come.
When the characters are out walking around the city of Chicago the cars that drive by look worse then the cars you would see in a Nintendo 64 game. When characters have to swat a CG bug away, they completely miss the CG bug … but it still dies anyway. If you think all of this bad, wait until you see the baboon lizards. The CG effects in this film are so bad that even the casual film fan can spot every green screen … and there are a lot of scenes that require green screens. The simple fact is post-production failed this film, and they failed miserably.
CG and special effects weren’t the only departments to mess up this film, but props and costumes did nothing to help either. When the characters aren’t traveling in time they wear an early 2000’s wardrobe … because that’s what this movie thinks people will be wearing in 2055? That may just be how things are in the future, but when the characters do travel in time, do they get to wear futuristic looking gear? Nope. They wear a full army uniform with a glass fishbowl helmet … yep, that’s the future for you. Even worse they’re armed with a gun that looks like a supersoaker.
The only actor that’s able to hold their ground is Ben Kingsley who portrays the greedy owner of Time Safari. There’s nothing special with his performance he just doesn’t look anywhere near as bad as everyone else in the film This may be due to the fact that most of his scenes don’t require a green screen, and thus he doesn’t have to make genuine reactions to ridiculous looking monsters.
The way the time traveling in this film works and the way the time ripples work feels like the story is more rooted in fantasy than science fiction. The films attempts at scientific explanations for everything are filled with a myriad of holes and contradictions. This can be irritating at times, but honestly by the time the film starts explaining things, the production values of this film had already taken me out of the story.
At its core there is a decent story behind this film, but it cannot overcome all of these production failures. Ray Bradbury’s classic short story gets butchered in this adaptation, watch this film if you want to see a literary murder.