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Overall Rating

Awesome: 2.44%
Worth A Look: 2.44%
Just Average: 19.51%
Pretty Crappy: 2.44%

5 reviews, 11 user ratings

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Sound of Thunder, A
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by Jay Seaver

"About as awful as awful gets. Awful."
1 stars

"A Sound of Thunder" is a deeply stupid movie. It is the kind of stupid where an educated man holds a spherical object in his hand and calls it a "disc". It's also cheap-looking - I swear the computer model the special effects used for the allosaurus was "Toy Story"'s Rex - but I might be able to forgive that, if not for the stupidity. The people who wrote the screenplay seemed to have learned everything they know about causality, biology, and physics from watching "Star Trek" (the bad years). It's the kind of movie where particle accelerators have chairs inside. It's the type of movie that forces anyone talking about it to make up words like "gorillasaur".

Right now, a certain portion of the people reading this review are thinking something along the lines of "gorillasaur... I am so there!" I can't stop the people whoo have that sort of instinctive reaction; I admit, I might have a hard time resisting it myself. I can only remind you that Ray Bradbury's original story didn't include such beasts, and a group of writers that includes a man whose credits include a fair amount of porn written under the name "Hugh Jorgan" is unlikely to have improved upon the work of one of the twentieth century's most celebrated writers. Not that it takes such an obvious group of hacks to butcher a classic story; Robert Silverberg, a respected author in his own right, took much the same route when expanding three classic stories by Isaac Asimov to novel length.

The method in question is to take a short story that posits a neat idea with a zing at the end - in this case, a time-traveling safari that wipes out the human race when one member strays from the path an kills a single butterfly - and then both elongate it so that the hammer blow of the twist ending is muted and tack on a bunch of standard-issue "what happens next" action-movie stuff. In the original story, a group of characters go on a "time safari" to the time of the dinosaurs and arrive back in the story's present to find themselves unable to understand the language because one schmuck stepped on a butterfly. And no going back to fix it, because the "local" perspective is nothing's wrong. Basic message: Human beings shouldn't screw with that sort of power, especially not relatively unregulated private industry. Here, pretty much the same thing happens at first, only we spend a little more time meeting safari leader Travis Ryer (Edward Burns) and his team, and also get introduced to Sonia Rand (Catherine McCormack), the woman who invented time travel but now strongly opposes its use. At any rate, after the safari, a few things are subtly different, but soon the world is getting whacked with "time waves" which knock people around leave altered flora and fauna behind, considerately saving human beings for last because we're apparently the last to evolve. Good thing that leaves Ryer and Rand time to figure out what went wrong and come up with a way to go back and fix it!

This, of course, makes no sense. Now, I know what you're thinking - "come on, Seaver, no-one has ever travelled in time, aside from in a one second per second straight line forward! How do you know it doesn't work like that?" And, hey, maybe that's the case. Maybe the anthropic fallacy isn't actually a fallacy. Maybe the Universe as a whole really does treat certain arrangements of matter differently, so that when a "time wave" hits Chicago, it doesn't rearrange the molecules of people and buildings, and everyone retains their old memories, so that they can be shocked and surprised when they encounter a pack of gorillasaurs. Apparently changing "evolution" won't change "history", because, well, I guess people and their things are special somehow. There's never any actual reason given for why these changes happen in waves other than "because Sonia said so" (indeed, what made the end of Bradbury's story such a powerful whammy was that the effects were systemic and catastrophic, with no window to reverse them). It happens this way strictly because those are the precise needs of the story, and when the story needs something else, the universe will work a different way.

There may be a way to make the script work, but the cast doesn't find it. Burns isn't actively bad, just bland, and that may be the best way to handle his lines - as much as he makes no impression on the audience, we don't laugh at him trying to deliver technobabble with conviction. Poor Ms. McCormack has nothing but technobabble (aside from pitiable lines like "I'm a nerd, not a lawyer"), and she does get laughed at. Ben Kingsley plays the greedy owner of TimeSafari Inc., generally the Malcolm McDowell role. Jemima Rooper doesn't hide her English accent as Ryer's assistant, and Wilfried Hochholdinger has the most charm of any of them as the team's doctor, leading me to wonder if Travis Ryer is the only American in this future Chicago.

It's a future Chicago that looks unabashedly like bad special effects. I don't really mind that, frankly, because they're at least making an effort in the direction of the city looking futuristic. Peter Hyams (as usual, serving as both director and director of photography) isn't quite as good with the digital backlot as George Lucas, and leans heavily on low lighting to keep the audience from getting a really good look at the visual effects later on. Given how cheap the early ones look, that's an easily defended decision. The writing is handled by Thomas Dead Donnelly & Joshua Oppenheimer (who apparently benefitted from good rewrites on Sahara) and Gregory Poirier (who, aside from the porn, is the auteur behind Tomcats), and is utterly predictable when it isn't nonsensical - you know exactly who is going to get picked off by the gorillasaurs and other beasties because they are the current least useful people in the party.

Gorillasaurs. My god. I need a brain enema to purge this.

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originally posted: 09/02/05 20:09:17
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User Comments

7/23/10 Salmiakki We have never laughed so much in--no, at--a scifi film before. 1 stars
7/08/10 art NUT"S TO THIS movie! 1 stars
8/21/07 steve newman What a load of bollocks - bollocks, bollocks, bollocks, bollocks, bollocks 1 stars
5/27/06 Jeff Anderson Although Burns is OK, this film is horrible. The bad CGI is the least of the problems!! 1 stars
5/24/06 AntBee I didn't choose to see this, was forced to by my partner. I wish I could beat his ass! 1 stars
3/14/06 Shannon Robles this movie is so bad its good! 3 stars
3/13/06 Donny This is the sort of campy B movie the Sci-fi channel wants to make. 4 stars
10/01/05 ES Wow! A surprisingly good movie, a treat considering movies lately 5 stars
9/21/05 Fritz So rife for MSTing, I must recommend. 3 stars
9/05/05 Hilary Duff's Panties You'd think a movie with Gorillasaurs in it wouldn't suck, but... 1 stars
9/02/05 yomomma i've seen far worse but this is pretty craptacular... 2 stars
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  02-Sep-2005 (PG-13)
  DVD: 28-Mar-2006



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