Hippo Manchester
September 8, 2005

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A Sound of Thunder (PG-13)
by Amy Diaz

Claymation-ish dinosaurs over blue screen backgrounds provide the setting for even less believable acting by Edward Burns in the jaw-droppingly bad A Sound of Thunder.

I’ve never actually read the Ray Bradbury short story on which this movie is based but I doubt it’s as laugh-out-loud hilarious as parts of this movie are. Remember the dinosaurs and other monsters of 1950s B movies? How they looked like the forced-perspective shots of those plastic dinosaurs sold in the big buckets next to the containers of army men? I suppose A Sound of Thunder has taken a step closer to modern special effects but it is only a baby step. When the monkey-bats and lizard-baboons appear it will really be all you can do to keep from sending that soda you’re sipping straight out your nose. It is at once awful and beautiful — to say nothing of the walrus-fish-alien-thing that makes a brief appearance near the movie’s end.

Some 50 years into the future, Travis Ryer (Edward Burns) is the lead scientist at Time Safari, an outfit that has taken the discovery of time travel and turned it into an “experience” for weekend warrior executives. Charles Hatton (Ben Kingsley,  all white pompadour and crazy eyes) runs this organization like it’s two-hour summer camp for the rich — catering to their desires to shoot great big dinosaurs and return with trophy photographic footage of the ordeal. Ryer is less enthusiastic about the commercial aspects of this travel and more excited about its scientific possibilities. Though the team consistently goes back just before a tyrannosaurus rex is about to be killed by a volcano (wannabe hunters shoot it with ice bullets), Ryer uses it as a chance to take digital DNA samples (or some such nonsense, don’t pay too much attention to the science in this movie).  His hope is to find a way to reconstitute the original DNA of modern animals, most of whom have been long since wiped out by some sort of virus. (He uses as his example a lion, whose ancestral connection to a tyrannosaurus is, what, again?)

Sonia Rand (Catherine McCormack), the scientist who created the supercomputer that made possible the sending of these nitwits back in time, warns that continued use of this technology for amusement will eventually come to no good. Well, duh — The Simpsons did a whole “Treehouse of Terror” segment on that subject. But apparently, by 2055 The Simpsons are out of syndication and so the hunting trips continue until one of the clients accidentally squishes an evolutionarily significant insect. Thus begin a series of changes to modern times — first vines, then hordes of insects, then the monkey-bats.

Were movies not so expensive and your $8 better spent on other things (a gallon of gas, for example), I would almost recommend A Sound of Thunder. That special effects this bargain-basement can make it into a major motion picture seems like a fact worthy of note. And, I suppose, buying a ticket to a movie like this only serves to encourage this sort of behavior.