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A Sound of Thunder

Words cannot begin to describe the emotions that have been surging through my system since screening A Sound of Thunder last night. Unfortunately for me, as a writer, the need to do just that is downright crucial.

Critics often throw around phrases on par with the likes of “worst ever,” “disaster,” or “waste of time” with reckless abandon, and having participated in such practice in the past I must officially retract all use of said anecdotal euphemisms and lower the bar a few more pegs to make room for Peter Hyams’ latest “work” based on a short story by Ray Bradbury.

This “film” is simply so bad that it gives new meaning to the lowest of the lows. In fact, it is unfair to even associate the finished product with Ray Bradbury.

The concept is simple enough. In the year 2055, a man named Charles Hatton (Ben Kingsley) has found a way to profit off the greatest scientific advancement of recent discovery: time travel. He isn’t a scientist, he is an entrepreneur and tycoon at best, and his foresight in harnessing time travel and subverting it into a ludicrously profitable safari industry for the elite has made him richer than one could hope to imagine.

His team is lead by Dr. Travis Ryer (Edward Burns), who seems renowned enough for clients to know him by name, yet as to the “how, why, and what for,” we are sadly left in the dark. Perhaps he is known for his work with animals, all of which are now extinct due to some disease or plague that is mentioned “matter of factly” at some point?

Who knows? Neither Peter Hyams nor any of the three writers involved in adapting Bradbury’s short story for the screen bother to elaborate on this point for whatever reason.

Back to the “plot,” Ryer’s band of time travelers specialize in jumping clients back through time to pre-historic era to a point moments before a dinosaur falls into a tar pit and dies from natural causes. In doing so, clients are then allowed to gun down the creature without creating a paradox, seeing as how the dino was seconds away from death anyway.

A Government agency designed specifically to regulate time travel and help keep practices up to “code” carefully monitors all of these operations so that no unfortunate mishaps occur. Clients are instructed not to touch or tamper with anything during the jump, and they are even helped along by a translucent pathway that allows them to move along without even stepping foot on Prehistoric soil.

As anyone can see, things eventually go wrong as expected, and the setup of Bradbury’s future world would seem ripe for social commentary. Unfortunately for us, Hyams is at the helm, and anyone familiar with his work can see where this is going. 2010 anyone?

This film looks like what Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow should have looked like. Say what you will about that vehicle, it was homegrown with a DIY aesthetic, and damn did it look good. Better than one would have imagined. A Sound of Thunder, however, does not fare so favorably.

This film looks like it was made on a no-budget means, and when saying “no-budget” this isn’t to imply the Robert Rodriguez use of the term. No, I’ve seen animation projects and green screen work done more convincingly by people still in film and animation school, and this is no slight to them. Hyams' direction is absolutely abysmal, with or without the effects trouble. Wide shots are used when moments of intimacy call for close-ups. Close ups are used when exposition and clarification are practically begged for. There is absolutely no clear methodology at work here whatsoever, and the makes something like Larry Clark’s Teenage Caveman look canonical.

This film is a flat out embarrassment for paying audiences, for Edward Burns (although this isn’t saying much), and for Ben Kingsley of all people. House of Sand and Fog got him an Oscar nomination people…an OSCAR NOMINATION. That film was only released three years ago!

Hell, even Thunderbirds was an acceptable diversion; this is just plain nonsensical.

Yet of all of those mentioned, Warner Brothers has got to be burrowing its collective head in the sand with this one. Someone has to be losing work over this travesty. How this film was green lit remains somewhat a mystery, but wretched films go into production and get shelved (or released direct to video) all the time. What is even more perplexing is questioning which Warner exec screened this mess and deemed it worthy of distribution theatrically?

This week, our beloved Editor offered yours truly first pick: screen A Sound of Thunder or screen Transporter 2. Not knowing much about the former, a quick scan of said film’s IMDB.com page revealed the notable Kingsley and sometimes-enjoyable Burns in starring roles. The name of Bradbury helped as well.

Based on this information, I felt my choice was clear, seeing as how anything with Kingsley in it has to be better than another Jason Statham film, right?

Clearly, I was wrong.


Mario Anima

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