Every bit as bad as advance buzz has indicated, Peter Hyams’ long-delayed “A Sound of Thunder” finally arrives in megaplexes just in time to provide an appropriately downbeat end to a disappointing summer season. It’s a clunky and cheesy disaster that doubtless will fast-forward to bargain bins at homevid outlets.
Loosely based on a story by Ray Bradbury — very, very loosely, no doubt – pic is cautionary yarn about the dangers of time travel. In 2055 Chicago, Time Safari, Inc., uses cutting-edge technology to zap wealthy customers back to the Cretaceous Era for the chance to hunt dinosaurs. Everything is supposed to be rigidly controlled – just like at “Westworld,” right? — to ensure nothing that occurs during a blast to the past can alter the flow of history and evolution.
But, of course, something terrible happens – specifically, someone inadvertently stomps on a butterfly — and that in turn triggers a series of “time waves” that threaten to revert the 21st-century planet to a prehistoric state.
As primordial plant life overruns the Windy City, and bizarrely evolved predators (one part primate, one part reptile, all parts nasty) prey on bit players and co-stars, Dr. Travis Ryer (Edward Burns), the studly scientist who leads the Time Safari treks, and Dr. Sonia Rand (Catherine McCormack), inventor of the time-travel technology, struggle to reverse the reverting process.
It’s conceivable that “Thunder” might have been more impressive with an upgrade in its production values. (The chintzy special effects often make it appear the actors have been dropped into the middle of a video game.) But all the high-tech gloss in the world wouldn’t smooth Hyams’ bumpy pacing – by turns desperately frenetic and yawningly plodding – or untangle the sometimes torturously muddled storyline.
There are definite signs of last-minute cutting, re-cutting and re-re-cutting. And there is every indication that most of the cast didn’t feel “Thunder” was worth the expenditure of excessive effort. Ben Kingsley has a few choice moments as Time Safari CEO Charles Hatton, a glad-handing greedhead who undermines safety precautions. Unfortunately, he’s forced to wear an outrageous wig that makes it appear he has a massive White Persian cat perched atop his head.
There’s probably an interesting doc (or docudrama) to be made about the making of “A Sound of Thunder.” Pic was buffeted by mishaps like massive flooding during location filming in the Czech Republic, and the subsequent (albeit not directly related) bankruptcy of Franchise Pictures. Surely, this drama behind the drama would be far more entertaining than what actually appears on screen.