A Sound of Thunder

Cast:
Ed Burns as Dr. Travis Ryer
Ben Kingsley as Charles Hatton
Catherine McCormack as Dr. Sonia Rand
Jemima Rooper as Jenny Krase
Wilfried Hochholdinger as Dr. Lucas
August Zirner as Clay Derris
Corey Johnson as Christian Middleton

Summary:
A cool concept is wasted on bad effects, zombie actors and muddled science – A Sound of Thunder starts with promise, but ends with a thud.

Story:
In the near future, time travel will be an exciting, if unpredictable, reality. For a price, rich adventurers can stir their dormant killer instincts by booking safaris back to the Prehistoric age to hunt real, live dinosaurs. There are only three essential rules: Don’t change anything in the past; don’t leave anything behind; and most important, don’t bring anything back. The slightest alteration might impact the existing course of evolution in ways that no one can imagine. A Sound of Thunder opens on the year 2055 in downtown Chicago where a very elite travel agency, Time Safari Inc., has cornered the lucrative time-traveling market with an exclusive prehistoric hunting package. Time Safari is the hottest ticket in town… until the unthinkable happens. Someone breaks the rules. And evolution runs off its tracks.

Only two people guess what might be happening: Ryer, who leads the Time Safari expeditions into the past, and Rand, the gifted physicist who developed the technology that makes these journeys possible. Time Safari CEO Charles Hatton stole the largely untested technology from Rand and has been using it despite her warnings. Now, it appears her worst fears are realized.

Threatened on all sides and fast running out of time, Ryer and Rand must find a way to go back and correct whatever catastrophic error was made, to save themselves and the human race from certain extinction. But as each new wave of change rolls forward from the Prehistoric past, their world continues to collapse all around them.

A Sound of Thunder is Rated PG-13 sci-fi violence, partial nudity and language.

What Worked:
The absolute best thing about A Sound of Thunder is Ben Kingsley. He plays the arrogant, money-grubbing CEO of Time Safari Inc. with just the right amount of glee and bombast. The white coifed Kingsley is part ingenious capitalist, part used car salesman as he touts the experience of Time Safari to would-be clients and congratulates those who return successfully from the trip with a champagne reception. Even when things don’t go as planned on the ‘jumps’ – as the time trips are called – he still can make the clients believe they got their money’s worth from the experience. The good stuff starts… and unfortunately stops… with Kingsley.

What Didn’t Work:
The effects work in A Sound of Thunder ranges from okay to downright laughable. The scenes shot in the streets of 2055 Chicago are some of the worst green screen work ever printed on film. The actors actually look they are walking on treadmills as the digital scenery scrolls smoothly by. The effects also fail on Herculean levels when it comes to the simulated street traffic. The digitized future cars look like something generated from a 16-bit home video game console. I had to double take on several occasions as I marveled at the fact that someone ‘Ok’d’ this to be in on the screen.

The creatures in the movie leaned more toward the ‘okay’ on the entertainment meter. The main foe – an odd hybrid of Humvee-sized Gibbon-lizards (part monkey, part dino) – is an interesting invention, but get repetitive and boring after a while. The mutant bats that attack the car with our jump team inside are more silly than scary. Finally, the uber-eel that now inhabits the flooded subway system looks like a rejected Star Wars creature design from the Otoh Gunga scenes in Episode I.

The acting, Kingsley aside, is stale and mono-dimensional. Burns is completely sleepwalking through this. For evidence, look no further than the scene where he is explaining to Rand his life’s pursuit with all the enthusiasm and vigor of a cold plate of mac and cheese. McCormack has some good moments as Rand, but spends most of the movie with a chip on her shoulder the size of the Allosaurus the Time Safari troops kill repeatedly.

Which makes for another problem… one of time continuity. Since the Time Safari jumps keep returning to the same point in time 65 million years ago to kill the same dinosaur – that is about to bite it in a tar pit anyway – wouldn’t they, after the initial trip, keep running into themselves? I’m no time theorist, but it seems possible.

Then there are killer brambles, hard drives that can survive prolonged trips underwater and timewaves! Sigh.

There are many more things wrong with A Sound of Thunder, but I’ve already wasted my time in the theater, so I’ll wrap this up by asking you not to waste yours.

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