Hello, friends in time, and welcome to a regular feature on Cinema 52 where I put my weekly viewing of Back to the Future on hold and watch another movie featuring time travel for comparison. It may not keep me sane, but it will probably always involve one guy shouting, “This doesn’t make any sense!” And that’s good enough for me.
A SOUND OF THUNDER (2005)
Based on the title of the classic Ray Bradbury short story, A Sound of Thunder opens on a typical day at Time Safari, a company that makes a bold promise: for an astronomical fee, you can go back in time and kill a real dinosaur. It was already going to die, of course; you just get to shoot it right before it’s burned up by volcanic lava. Just remember to stay on the magic hovering path, for if you step on something as seemingly insignificant as a delicate butterfly, the future might turn into something unwatchably stupid…
Bradbury’s tale takes about twenty minutes to read, and you may notice that the runtime on A Sound of Thunder is almost two hours. So, it goes without saying that there’s going to be a little padding. Some of that padding is multiple trips back in time vs. the one expedition in the original…
…and some of it is baboon-dinosaur hybrids, agghhh!
Creationism makes more sense than this.
Yes, whereas the original story simply ends on an alteration of political history, the movie opts to become a dumb creature feature in which changing the past makes weird organisms like intelligent plants and killer beetles suddenly exist in the present.
Now, one might wonder why the present otherwise looks exactly the same, with no sweeping changes in human biology, culture, or technological progress, but shhh, giant eel monster!
This normal, everyday creature did not affect our ability to construct subways.
Now, the original story simply ends on the new reality, which cannot be corrected because you can’t revisit a time you’ve already visited. The film gets around this by making them go back just slightly before the trip where they fucked everything up and waiting a bit. Or something. There are charts. I don’t know.
Pretty sure they used the word “slingshot” at least once.
I feel like the writers congratulated themselves for working around a perceived plot hole in the original, but it would’ve been nice if the rest of the script didn’t come across like it was written by a seven-year-old.
Have you noticed how far I’ve gotten into this article without mentioning a single character? There’s a reason for that.
Ben Kingsley plays a John Hammond-y eccentric showman type who owns Time Safari. He’s memorable because he’s Ben Kingsley and he’s got the most interesting arc. (Might he be a little… evil?)
He spared some expenses… specifically the field that doesn’t let butterflies in.
The rest of the cast is comprised of typically forgettable “SyFy original film” characters that get picked off one by one, Cabin in the Woods-style. Here are some of their faces in various states of acting.
Wait, no joke, I don’t even remember that last guy.
THE SPECIAL EFFECTS:
I know you want to see more of those stupid Baboonasauruses…
…but we have to address a fundamental problem with how the filmmakers tried to save money on the effects budget. I’m about to show you two separate frames from two separate scenes in A Sound of Thunder that happen 24 minutes apart.
Probably just a one-time fluke I noticed, right? Nope. These are two distinctly different time trips that re-use multiple shots of the exact same animation, mostly edited in the exact same order. You’ll notice they tweaked the brightness slightly so their laziness isn’t entirely obvious, but you really don’t have to be an expert to catch this baffling bullshit.
This sucks for multiple reasons:
1) How could the audience possibly be excited by watching an identical scene over again? It’s so clearly the same animation that you know what’s going to happen after the first couple of repeated shots.
2) It’s a time travel movie, so it looks like they went back to kill the same dinosaur over again. This legitimately confused members of my watching party, who assumed that it was an alternate timeline that they could keep revisiting without running into their other selves. I had to break out anecdotes from the short story just to convince them that that wasn’t happening.
3) Recycled or not, it’s just plain terrible CGI. Look at the same low-grade shit applied to a painfully bad green screen shot of the future…
Are people still making video résumés?
The time travel is just a hole in space-time. Nothing crazy. Or good.
You can do this on an iPhone now.
The thing that they really gave a shit about were the “time waves.” When I say that, I mean they cared about them looking cool, not about them making any sense. The waves keep coming and rippling the future. Why there are multiple waves, I do not know. Why they can spot a wave in the Old West and say, “Look out!” like it’s simultaneously happening in the present, I do not know. Why seeing this clip in an ad made me think I might want to watch this movie, I do. Not. Know.
- This is directed by Peter Hyams, who made the equally stupid but infinitely more watchable Timecop. I definitely recommend it over this, which is really saying something.
THE “NONE OF THIS MAKES ANY SENSE!” MOMENT:
I don’t care if the guy saying this line is somehow exactly right; it’s too stupid not to share with you. As our group of nobodies is driving away from a flock of Monkeydactyls or something, the woman who stepped on the butterfly refuses to believe that all this nonsense is her fault. To which Generic Hero Guy replies…
“It wasn’t a bug that you stepped on… it was evolution!“
I can’t pretend like the original short story is logically airtight, but at the very least, it’s short. I understand the inherent problems of adapting “A Sound of Thunder” to film; since Bradbury first published it, there have been countless time travel movies that feature ripple effects, so it wouldn’t be the mind-blowing twist it once was. Still, I would have given them a little more respect if they made their own evolution-y monster movie that didn’t shamelessly yoink the title. Also, if it made sense or didn’t look like complete ass.
LATER THIS WEEK:
We’re Back! A Dinosaur’s Story (1993)
Want more time travel? Head on over to the Time Out archive.