Saturday, February 03, 2007

A Sound of Thunder: A Review

One of those "blink-and-you'll-miss-it" theatrical releases, this little 2005 sci-fi film is only one step higher on the evolutionary ladder than those cheesy creature features being produced on a weekly basis for the Sci-Fi Channel. Based on the 1952 short story by Ray Bradbury, I couldn't help but continuously think of "The Simpsons" Treehouse of Horrors parody, "Time and Punishment" (see below) while watching Peter Hyams's film.

"If you ever go back in time, don’t touch anything. Even the slightest change can alter things in ways you can’t possibly imagine." Truer words were never spoken. While Travis Ryer (Ed Burns, the poor man's Ben Affleck) and his crew of Temporalnauts respect this prime directive, the clients of Time Safari's boss man Charles Hatton (Sir Ben Kingsley) do not. The inadvertent death of a butterfly proves out Grandma Simpson's admonition, causing literal ripples in time that really ruin Ryer’s day. His present day timeline changes with "time waves" that bring about a surge in plant life, bugs, and some odd hybrid creatures like the vicious baboonosaurus. It's up to Ryer, his team, and the grouchy Dr. Sonia Rand (Catherine McCormack) to put things right again. Will they make it? Of course they will. The real questions are "What order do they die in?" and "What is Sir Ben Kingsley doing in this film?"

Another puzzling aspect to the film is the budget. Was everything spent on catering? Certainly, very little was donated to special effect work. Street scenes feature actors walking against backgrounds of looping "futuristic" cars that look like they were accomplished with chroma-key effects done at the local Public Access Cable studio. A SOUND OF THUNDER was doomed not only by its horrible effects but by the cinematic saturation of the Novikov self-consistency principle. The film was the fourth of four films. While two others, John Woo's PAYBACK (2003) and Eric Bress & J. Mackye Gruber's THE BUTTERFLY EFFECT (2004), shared the same core idea they boasted far better marketing. A SOUND OF THUNDER was all fury and no thunder when it came to marketing, coming out with a whimper only equal to Richard Donner's forgettable TIMELINE (2003).

It would be a few years until another such timeline film would get that amount of funding; Tony Scott's DEJA VU. Even then, the time travel aspect was minimized and only visible in previews that ran before fantasy or sci-fi films.

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