Dir: Peter Hyams.US/Germany/Czech Republic/UK. 2005. 101 mins.
Emerging in themarketplace almost three years after it was made, A Sound of Thunder turns a vintage Ray Bradbury short story into acheesy and unconvincing big budget B-movie. With its sub-par effects, uninspiredperformances and unfocused narrative, this sci-fi thriller, left over from theglory days of now dormant US indie Franchise Pictures, will be lucky if it canparlay brief theatrical runs around the world into money making DVD releases.
The internationalco-production opened surprisingly well last weekend in Spain, but matching thatperformance in the US and other territories will be very tricky. Warner Bros givesthe film (the last set for theatrical release under the studio's distribution deal withFranchise) a mid-sized launch on 845 North American screens this weekend.However a lack of star power - actor and sometime writer-director Edward Burnsleads the cast - is likely to result in a quick move to the video market.
Independent distributors ina couple of other international territories (originally licensed by Franchise,the film is now being sold for remaining markets by Mobius International) maybe able to leverage a supporting cast that includes several Brits and oneGerman performer. But to make much of a mark they will have to avoidcompetition from a number of other, more competent US movies covering similarkinds of genre ground.
The script, by Gregory Poirier(Rosewood) and the team of ThomasDean Donnelly and Joshua Oppenheimer (Sahara), builds on Bradbury's ten-page 1952 story about amid-21st century time-travel agency offering clients prehistoric dinosaurhunting expeditions. The trouble begins when a customer breaks one of the threegolden rules of time travel and changes the past, thus altering the course ofmillions of years of evolution.
To their credit, thescriptwriters find a fairly inventive way to spin out Bradbury's premise. Theyset up a three-way conflict between the rugged Travis Ryer (Burns), who leadsthe agency's expeditions, Charles Hatton (Kingsley), the agency's smarmy owner,and Sonia Rand (McCormack), the scientist who invented the time travel portalbut now warns against its abuse. And they reveal the ecological catastrophebrought about by the temporal tampering in stages. A series of 'timewaves'washes over the present, transforming life on earth: one wave turns everydayplants into city-devouring giants, the next introduces horrendous new animals,and the last will transform mankind into who knows what. The task for Travisand Sonia is to identify how the past was changed and change things back beforethe final timewave hits.
It's in the execution thatthe film, directed by veteran Peter Hyams (Timecop), falls down badly. Early on, the narrative isinterrupted by unnecessary chunks of character background, and as thesometimes-confusing plot unfolds the film often loses its grip on its audience.The latter stages, meanwhile, are oddly lacking in tension.
The effects are a particularletdown, especially for a production with a reported budget of $80m. Apparentlygoing for a Minority Report-style,near future feel, the film, shot on locations and in studios in the CzechRepublic, frequently sets its characters against busy urban street scenes. Butthe backgrounds have a fuzzy, video game look and the combination withforeground characters is surprisingly crude.
The film's prehistoricforest was apparently created with real plants, but it still looks cramped andfake. The one conventional dinosaur (for some reason the film substitutes anAllosaurus for the original story's T Rex) has a disappointingly plasticappearance and the story's other monsters - a herd of dino-apes, some giant batsand an oversized eel - are mostly CG creations that produce only the odd realscare.
The human performers don'tdo a lot better. Kingsley, with his shock of white hair and soul patch, isoccasionally quite amusing as the money-grubbing villain of the piece, butBurns (last seen opposite Dustin Hoffman in Confidence) is much too impassive as the action hero. McCormack(Spy Game) is weirdly shrill andfellow Brits Rooper (Kinky Boots Factory) and Oyelowo (UK TV's Spooks aka MI5) get only limitedscreen time. Wilfred Hochholdinger (Agnes und seine Bruder) is the cast'sGerman representative.
Franchise Pictures (US)
Q1 Quality International (Germany)
Film Group 111
Crusader Entertainment (US).
Mobius International (+1)310 202 9500
William J Immerman
Thomas Dean Donnolly & Joshua OppenheimerGregory Poirier.
Director of Photography