Monday, September 24, 2012

A Sound of Thunder

This sci-fi flick's release was delayed for 3 years due to the production company that put up the money going bankrupt during post-production, and when it was finally released in late 2005 it came and went pretty quickly (even though it was highly anticipated since it was based off a fairly popular Ray Bradbury short story). Well, I've seen it on DVD and I can safely say that all those people who decided to stay home the day it was released didn't miss much.

The plot being that in the near future a major company will be able to offer the wealthy a means to go back in time to hunt dinosaurs that have been selected for termination due to the fact that the travelers kill them at the time that they were going to originally die so the future doesn't change. Well, one goofball client steps off their designated path and kills a butterfly. Once they return to the future, massive waves of paradoxes alter the world and the natural evolution of the planet (meaning all kinds of nasty creatures that should have died out long ago are still alive), and the heroes must go back in time to fix what they screwed up.
It's pretty convoluted, but it's easy to follow. It starts off decent with the set-up of the story and all the characters (or caricatures if you really want to be cruel), but once we are shown the second trip into the past things start to get stupid. Well, for starters we see the main characters take a trip back in time to kill an allosaurus and succeed without a hitch. Then the second time they travel back in time with new clients they hunt the same allosaurus, and kill it at the exact same time as their past selves did, but their past selves are nowhere to be seen. They should have run into themselves dozens of times over since they've been doing this for years. It's pretty lame.

The script, while at times tries to be clever and intelligent, ends up using every trick in the book to manipulate us into liking these characters. Of course the black dude is the first to die, and even though he wasn't really developed enough for us to give a crap about him we're still treated to an extended death scene (where he's eaten by ape-lizards) to MAKE us feel sorry for him. Sorry, it didn't work.
It's the same for all the other character who are cliches across the board. There's the gruff yet loyal chief scientist (played very badly by Edward Burns), the bitchy scientist who hates the whole idea of time travel (played well enough by Catherine McCormack), and their eccentric boss who is all about the benjamins (played haplessly by Sir Ben Kingsley who seems to enjoy slumming in roles in Thunderbirds and Bloodrayne). There are a few other main characters but they are never given any development at all, so I won't go into detail about them here.

The special effects are absolutely horrid! I'm talking the kind of CGI you'd expect to see in pre-Terminator 2 movies. The CGI creatures are jerky, badly rendered and have what looks like a layer of static across them that make it hard for us to see in any real detail. They aren't even blended into the shots very well making them stand out for the chunks of dog shit they are. On top of that, whenever there's an outdoor scene that involves characters walking around in the futuristic version of Chicago it is painfully obvious that they are on a treadmill in front of a greenscreen. The CG backdrops look like a PS1 game and the actors aren't lit correctly, thus making it look like they're on a soundstage instead of a real location. It's total poo.
The only FX that I actually enjoyed were the time waves and how they are shown as a pseudo-bullet time effect. There are some moments of fun action (the car/huge bat chase), but they are few and far between and not enough to make me recommend this flick.

Director Peter Hyams really needs to retire. He's made some entertaining movies in the past (2010, Outland, TimeCop), but the movies he's made during the last 10 years have been garbage at best (The Musketeer, End of Days, Sudden Death, The Relic) and it doesn't look like that going to change anytime soon. Give it up dude, you had your day and it's long gone.

The only sound A Sound of Thunder makes is a huge resounding THUD! It's a loud, drawn out and ultimately worthless sci-fi romp into stupidity. View it at your own risk. Your brain cells will thank you if you avoid it.

0.5 out of 5

*written 3/30/06

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