A Sound Of Thunder

on September 02, 2005 by Mark Keizer
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Creationists rejoice: Your belief system will be further validated by "A Sound of Thunder", an unconvincing sci-fi adventure based on the Ray Bradbury short story. The film, about a group of time travelers who inadvertently alter the course of evolution, needs the breakneck pace, wide-eyed horror and A-list effects of "Jurassic Park." But instead of Spielberg, we get the bland competence of journeyman Peter Hyams (the fun "Timecop" and "Outland"), who seems bafflingly disengaged here, unable to muster any interest in the storytelling, direction, acting or effects.

In 2055, time travel is possible. The technology was created by Dr. Sonia Rand (Catherine McCormack) but appropriated by greedy-bastard entrepreneur Charles Hatton (a wig-wearing Ben Kingsley), who blithely uses this potentially devastating technology to create Time Safari, offering the rich and adventurous a chance to go back 65 million years, kill a dinosaur and return home without a scratch. Each party, led by Time Safari stud-muffin Travis Ryer (Edward Burns), goes back to the same moment and offs the same dinosaur, a creature about to die in a tar pit anyway, so killing him won't alter the timeline. Participants are lectured on the rules of the game, including don't touch anything, don't leave anything behind, don't bring anything back and, for God's sake, make sure all traces of your involvement are removed from imdb.com.

After one troublesome dino-hunt, present-day Chicago suffers a "time wave" that begins to alter life on Earth. Heavy vines push through the sidewalk and strange creatures begin roaming the streets. The Time Safari team realizes that something went wrong on their last adventure and life is now starting to re-evolve accordingly. Each "time wave" further corrupts the planet, meaning Ryer and his squad must figure out what went wrong and fix it before humans are replaced by their alternate-timeline equivalent: a half-baboon, half-dinosaur monster.

The whole of the internet may not be big enough to contain all the film's plot and science holes (tell me again why the time machine works in a city with no electricity?). Even those inclined towards Herculean suspensions of disbelief will eventually be forced to just sit back and hope the ride alone carries you through (tell me again why each successive time travel party doesn't bump into itself?). But the action scenes are lifeless and the dialogue scenes involve tight close-ups that suggest cable television (tell me again how Ryer and Rand survive a massive fall from the top of a tall building?). For a studio film, the CGI effects are simply unacceptable. The Chicago cityscapes look like pre-production art and the lousy green-screen work means that eyelines and perspectives are sometimes off. There's even a walk-and-talk scene where the sidewalk is moving faster than the character's feet (tell me again where the sun went?). Plot conveniences betray screenwriter laziness, as minor characters just sit at home waiting to be visited by our heroes and last-minute escape options always become available.

Someone needs to tell Burns that calling himself Edward will not miraculously make him a respected actor and being an action hero is more than furrowing your brow and showing off your pecs. Oscar winner Kingsley doesn't elevate the movie -- he sinks to its level and, although he tries to spice up his performance with goofy physical gestures, he just doesn't belong here. Supporting cast is bland, save Catherine McCormack, who has the honor of turning into a giant fish.

Bradbury's idea of a single, insignificant event changing history has movie thrill ride potential. But, much to this movie's embarrassment, the concept was given more entertaining treatment on various episodes of "Star Trek" and a Halloween episode of "The Simpsons." Alas, the problem with "A Sound of Thunder" is not the story, it's the storytellers. Starring Edward Burns, Ben Kingsley and Catherine McCormack. Directed by Peter Hyams. Written by Thomas Dean Donnelly, Joshua Oppenheimer and Gregory Poirier. Produced by Moshe Diamant, Howard Baldwin and Karne Baldwin. A Warner Bros. release. Sci-Fi/Adventure. Rated PG-13 for sci-fi violence, partial nudity and language. Running time: 101 min

Tags: Edward Burns, Ben Kingsley, Catherine McCormack, Directed by Peter Hyams, Thomas Dean Donnelly, Joshua Oppenheimer, Gregory Poirier, Moshe Diamant, Howard Baldwin, Karne Baldwin, A Warner Bros., Sci-Fi/Adventure, fish, action, hero, science
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