A SOUND OF THUNDER, a science fiction film based on the Ray Bradbury short story of the same name, is a colassal disapopintment – unworthy of the memorable source material. It seems as if the film wants to be an old-fashioned B-movie, but it is nowhere near that good; even worse, the idea is one that requires an A-Movie budget in order to work at all. Consequently, instead of a neat little movie told with modest production values, the film looks cheap and unconvincing, thanks to the terribly cartoony computer-generated imagery – not only for the dinosaurs but also for the futuristic cityscapes (which, with their awkward staging and camera angles, suggest that the actors were working on blank sets, onto which the digital backgrounds were added later – an effect done much better in SIN CITY). Weirdly, the design team includes Syd Mead (BLADE RUNNER) and Ray “Crash” McCreery (JURASSIC PARK), but you would never guess it from the on-screen results.
Briefly, the story involves time travel for profit: rich people pay big bucks to go back in time and shoot an allosaurus. Unfortunately, something goes wrong on one trip, and “time ripples” from the event begin changing course of evolution on a daily basis, forcing our characters to go back to fix what went wrong.
It’s not a bad idea for an action movie, but it falls prey to all the usual time travel paradox problems. The most obvious is that the hunt always goes back to kill the same dinosaur over and over, without ever meeting any of the previous hunting parties. Yet, when trying to “fix” the problem, our hero goes back in time and does see the hunting party that made the mistake, issuing a warning to one and preventing the catastrophe from happening. Whether or not time travel can ever make sense, the story should at least be internally consistent, and this clearly is not.
This kind of nitpick stuff might be forgivable if the film flowed along at an exciting pace, but it just lays there. It sort of almost works on an “I wonder what will happen next” level, but the action is tepid, the charactes thin, and the cast just doesn’t have the charisma or the talent to sew a silk purse out of a sow’s ear (exception being Ben Kingsley, who actually is the one bright spot here, as the greedy businessman who owns the time travel company).
Director Peter Hyams (who also photographed) used to be a decent filmmaker back in the 1970s, when he often wrote his own scripts. He was never great, but at least he was trying to make films with some personality and competence. Now, he seems to be nothing but a professional hack, churning out soulless movies just to make a living. But at least his John-Claude Van Damme movies (SUDDEN DEATH and TIME COP) had a tiny bit of pizzazz to them; even THE RELIC was a more interesting monster movie than SOUND OF THUNDER.
It’s too bad. The Ray Bradbury story is very good. Expanding its simple concept into a feature no doubt presented difficulties, but it deserved better treatment that it got. The batting average of Bradbury story-to-film adaptations is very low, and SOUND OF THUNDER only makes it worse.
A SOUND OF THUNDER (2005). Directed by Peter Hyams. Screenplay by Thomas Dean Donnelly & Joshua Oppenheimer and Gregory Pointer; screenstory by Donnelly & Oppenheimer, based on the short story by Ray Bradbury. Cast: Edward Burns, Catherine McCormack, Ben Kingsley, Wilfred Hochholdinger, David Oyelowo, Jemima Rooper.