The fact that it slipped onto a handful of screens with no posters, trailers or advertisements, that it’s directed by Peter Hyams (of The Relic fame) and that its IMDb rating was hovering around 3 should have prepared me for the mess that is A Sound of Thunder.
An adaptation of the Ray Bradbury short story, it postulates that time travel has become a valuable commodity in the near future. Since its publication in 1952, however, audiences have witnessed scores of time travel narratives, and in fact have most likely seen ‘The Simpsons’ parody the story in ‘Treehouse of Horror V’. Why exactly the filmmakers concerned thought that it was about time for an new interpretation of the story is a mystery to me.
Edward Burns is the hero of the piece, but unfortunately whenever I see him on screen I immediately have flashbacks to the awful 15 Minutes. To be fair, his performance is quite adequate here, in a film which actually doesn’t have too bad a script. In fact I was surprisingly pleased with the dialogue, having expected some B-grade trashy lines à la The Relic (‘He’s stealing hypothalamuses? What’s he doing? Making a hypothalamus collection?’). Instead we have quite a decent script delivered by the likes of Ben Kingsley (he was in Species, though, so let’s not get too excited).
Instead of sticking closely to the (very) short story, this narrative goes off on some outrageously dim-witted tangents, the most astounding being the concept of ‘time ripples’. Apparently altering the past doesn’t affect the future instantaneously, but in fact alters each ecosystem (the weather, flora, fauna, mankind) separately every 24 hours. Riiiiiight. If they’d simply repeated what we’ve seen before, it would have been pointless, but unfortunately Hyams et al manage to take audiences to new levels of stupidity with each successive scene (just you wait to see the monsters!). I suppose it’s a case of damned if you do, damned if you don’t, which just goes to show again that this film probably shouldn’t have been made.
One of the most embarrassing aspects of A Sound of Thunder comes in the opening scene. In Bradbury’s original, the Tyrannosaurus’ appearance is awe-inspiring: ‘It towered thirty feet above half of the trees, a great evil god, folding its delicate watchmaker’s claws close to its oily reptilian chest… the head itself, a ton of sculptured stone, lifted easily upon the sky.’* The same scene in Hyams’ movie is a joke. The creature in question is an awful CGI mess, possibly the worst dinosaur to ever grace the screen. Along with some very basic and dodgy back and forth editing techniques naïvely attempting to create suspense, it is the ultimate in D-grade.
Had this film been wedged between 12 other movies at a 24 sci-fi festival it may have been entertaining. Unfortunately, however, even the most devout sci-fi geek will regret spending their money on this. Homer did it better when he lamented ‘I wish I wish I hadn’t sat on that fish’.Rating: