Time Travel Movie Review

A Sound of Thunder (2005)
Evolve or die

Directed by Peter Hyams

The Basic Plot

The year is 2055 and Charles Hatton (Ben Kingsley) and his Time Safari Inc. arrange time travel trips 65 million years into the past for wealthy clients to hunt dinosaurs. Based on Ray Bradbury's 1952 classic short story of the same name the film stars Ed Burns (15 Minutes, Life or Something Like It) as Travis Ryer a scientist that leads the expeditions and Catherine McCormack (Spy Game, Dancing at Lughnasa) as Sonia Rand, the scientist responsible for inventing the time machine.

After a mission goes wrong the team begins to suspect that the past has been altered as the impacts are now being felt in their present. Travis and his team enlist the help of Dr. Rand to discover the divergence and repair catastrophic damage to the timeline.

The Analysis

What could have been a very strong science fiction movie with moral and political overtones is stripped down to its essential time travel elements and merged with what amounts to a horror plot from a B-movie. Imagine a classic like Them! (1954) or even the Godzilla franchise, except with a troop of pre-historic Monkey-saurs!

In all honesty a tongue-in-cheek parody would have been perferable to this film that seems to miss the mark on every account. The acting ranges from wooden, Ed Burns, to down right bizzare in Sir Ben Kingsley's turn as the ruthless business man Charles Hatton. Kingsley seems to be channelling P.T. Barnum and Krusty the Clown simultaneously. The writing and dialogue are painful as characters constantly speak aloud every thought and the audience is smothered in huge chunks of exposition with every plot development. It felt as if the writers had graduated from the Soap Opera school of writing and didn't trust the audeince to follow along. Speaking of dumbing down plot points, at one point a character explains the Heisenberg uncertainty principle as basically meaning unforseen accidents will happen. Huh?

The time machine itself looks like a cross between a roller coaster ride and a paint drying booth. The occupants ride the time machine standing up and are held in place by over the shoulder restraint similar to what is used in a stand up roller coaster. The chassis then enters a tunnel with spinning circles of lights. From the senders point-of-view the sequence looks a bit like the concentric rings of the Time Tunel. As the travellers exit the device in the past the wormhole/tunnel bears a striking resemblence to the old Sliders wormhole special effects.

While some of the special effects are handled decently, there are a number of scenes that are so poorly put together that it pulls you out of the movie. One scene in particular that illustrates this point is when two characters are walking down the futuristic streets of Chicago and having a conversation. The combination of background movement, the characters movement and the camera movement all add up to make it feel as if the characters are walking on the spot or walking on a treadmill. Nothing about the scene feels natural.

I thought I had seen the worst time travel movie ever in the form of Timeline (2003), but now I am second guessing myself. This could very well take the title.

It's a wonder more of Bradbury's short story's haven't been adapted to the big screen. Then again seeing the way in which Hollywood has handled this story maybe its for the best. The development of this film has had a long an tortuous path. Originally attached to direct A Sound of Thunder was maverick director Renny Harlin (Driven, Cutthroat Island, Cliffhanger). Harlin ran afoul of producers and Bradbury after he suggested dropping the pivotal butterfly from the story all together. Not long after, Peter Hyams (End of Days, Timecop, Capricorn One) was hired to direct the picture.

Filming was completed in 2003 and the film has had no less than 4 release dates scheduled during the past two years. During that time the producers Franchise Pictures went bankrupt and their assets acquired by Warner Bros. A Sound of Thunder is last picture from the defunct company that Warner Bros was contractually obligated to distribute theatrically, otherwise this might have been a very expensive direct to video release. It debuted in theatres in September of 2005 and had a very brief run before being released on DVD on March 28th, 2006.

Useless Trivia

2004 Andy Taylor
Review Posted: 2002-10-20
Review Updated: 2005-08-18 & 2006-03-31
Links Update: 2005-09-02

R E L A T E D   L I N K S:

Review of the Ray Bradbury Short Story - A Sound of Thunder
An Andy's Anachronisms review of Bradbury's short story and its influence on the popular culture.


A Sound of Thunder - The Offical Movie Website
The offical movie site from Warner Bros. contains synopsis, cast bios, behind the scenes look at FX, wallpaper, and a trailer for A Sound of Thunder.


A Sound of Thunder by Ray Bradbury
This page at the University of Miami, Ohio contains the complete text of A Sound of Thunder. Nothing fancy, but there for the reading.

Updated: 2005-09-02 -- This link is no longer active. See Link Below for alternate source


"A Sound of Thunder" - OneBee
Maverick blogger Jameson Simmons has thumbed his nose at copyright laws and corporate lawyers and provided a PDF version to the text of Bradbury's short story A Sound of Thunder here.

For the record, as an aspiring writer I am not in favour of depriving writers of royalities by violating copyright. Having said that, I am not opposed to providing a link to something you can find through a quick search of google. Let your conscience be the guide whether or not you steal from that nice Mr. Bradbury.


Ray Bradbury - Celebrating A Lifetime of Imagination and Wonder
Ray Bradbury's official website contains information on his books, a personal diary page, newsletter sign-up page, message boards and some video clips of the master's own home.


Internet Movie Database
This is the Internet Movie Database entry for A Sound of Thunder includes cast list, memorable quotes, trivia, and soundtrack listings.


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