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Sound of Thunder, A

Reviewed By David Cornelius
Posted 09/10/05 17:22:27

"Kingsley's hair alone is worth the price of admission."
1 stars (Sucks)

I am not merely in love with Bad Movies - I am addicted to them. The sheer terribleness of a cinematic catastrophe can, when everything goes just right in its going wrong, become a delicious experience. I tell you this now so you will understand why I say that while “A Sound of Thunder” is among the year’s worst films, it also ranks as one of the best times I’ve had lately at the movies. In a year when so many flops have been downright unwatchable, this one had me sighing in relief. And, of course, giggling like crazy.

I say “Bad Movies,” by the way, and not simply “bad movies.” There is a difference. Any movie can become a bad movie; it’s just something you don’t like, and that’s that. But a Bad Movie, capital “B,” capital “M,” is the kind of movie that transcends its awfulness and becomes, to those, like myself, who like this sort of thing, a sight to behold. “Monster-In-Law” is a bad movie: unenjoyable at any level. “The Monster That Challenged the World” is a Bad Movie: a doofy mess in which every attempt at seriousness winds up in hypnotic embarrassment.

“A Sound of Thunder” is a Bad Movie.

Adapted (very loosely) from a Ray Bradbury short story, the “Thunder” script, from Thomas Dean Donnelly and Joshua Oppenheimer, was reworked by Gregory Poirier (the mastermind behind “See Spot Run” and “Tomcats”) and then handed off first to director Renny Harlin, who then passed it to Peter Hyams. If you recognize these two last names, you can see where the film is headed. If not, let me assure you that Harlin and Hyams, while both have made good movies long ago, have since become synonyms for “crapsterpiece.”

The story, you ask? Oh, the story. Sci-fi fans will recognize it as one that’s been recycled throughout the decades in various forms. It’s the year 2055, where rich men walk around in 1930s zoot suits and everyone stands in front of greenscreens while goofy models of boxy Future Cars zip around Future Chicago. Time Travel has been discovered and quickly turned into an industry run by jillionaire Charles Hatton, who is, in fact, Ben Kingsley in a solid white pompadour, which is even more ridiculous than it sounds, if such a thing is possible. Hatton’s business involves getting other jillionaires to pay for travel back to the age of dinosaurs, where the richies and their tour guides kill a Allosaurus for thrills.

Oh, but we’re just getting started. Time travel is, obviously, a tricky business - you don’t want to upset the balance of things, especially that far back. Change one thing in the past, and you could kick off a chain reaction affecting the entire evolution of the planet.

But wait! you say. Isn’t killing an Allosaurus changing the past? Not really, it seems, since they always kill the same Allosaurus in the exact same spot, ensuring that he’ll always land in the tar pit where his bones will be discovered millions of years later. For all this scientific ass-covering the script does, it never bothers to explain how they’re able to land in the exact same point in time on each trip and never meet themselves.

But it does not matter, because that it not the point of the film. You see, on their latest journey, somebody somehow changed something.

At this point, it is safe to assume that when the travelers return to 2055, everything will be different, since the entire stream of time has been altered. But no. “When you change something in the past,” a scientist informs us, “the future isn’t affected right way.” Indeed, the changes come, but only in the form of “time waves,” which hit once a day and cause the real 2055 to slowly but surely transform into the new 2055. Every time the next wave hits (starting and ending where, we never learn), something’s just a little different about Future Chicago. First, it’s the temperature. Then, the plant life. And then the animals. The humans will be the last change, one character decides, so we better get around to fixing time before the last time wave comes around.

I do not think science works the way they think it works.

Working out the sloppy science in “Thunder” is only the first of its many unintended joys. Another is its wonderful slump in imagination. Sixty-five million years of rewritten evolution, and all the writers can come up with are some poisonous vines, a sea monster straight out of “The Phantom Menace,” and a lethal mix of baboon and dinosaur. A baboonosaur!

And then there’s the issue of the plotline, which is so absent in continuity and logic that it should be given a medal. About halfway through the film, the main characters decide that the best way to fix everything is to send our hero (played by Edward Burns with his usual “I’m not getting paid enough to actually act” screen personality) back in time to meet the time travelers when they arrive on their trip. Tell ’em to turn around, prevent the change, the end. Except, well, no.

Before they do this, the characters must waste a cool half hour of screen time running around the city, trying to find what exactly it was that got changed. They must find the two clients who went on the trip with them and ask them what’s what. Which is completely useless to the plan, since nobody needs to know what got changes, as long as somebody’s there to stop it in the first place.

But no, that would mean we wouldn’t get to see the creepy jungle Future Chicago has become. We wouldn’t have a chance to see the film turned into a dopey horror flick, in which the cast is picked off one by one as they trek across town and back again. And then they find what got changed, and then, apparently, the entire plan is rewritten without informing the audience, for by the time we finally - finally!! - go back in time again, it’s to do something completely different.

Oh, and the special effects are pretty crappy, too.

“A Sound of Thunder” is one of those films that make for a great night with your pals, allowing you to rip apart a movie fiasco from start to finish. It comes ready to bake right out of the box, complete with clumsy overacting, clunky dialogue, hamfisted direction, and general dopiness all around. If you like movies, you will do good to avoid it. But if you like Bad Movies, then catch this one as quickly as possible.

And please, try to do it before the next time wave hits.

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