Sunday, 19 November 2006

DVD: A Sound of Thunder

Lowdown: Under the cover of a sophisticated science fiction film lies a basically stupid "make you jump" horror film.
Review:
On paper, you would think that Peter Hyams would know his way through serious science fiction films, having directed many in the past. But that's only on paper; most of his films qualify as misses (Timecop), although I do like some of them (Outland, Capricorn One). A Sound of Thunder is based on a Ray Brad Bradbury story I've never read, but his name was enough for me to give this DVD a chance at the rental store. Sadly, it did not deserve it.
The film takes us into the near future, when time travel is possible. Possible, but used only (so it seems) by businesses taking rich people on dinosaur hunting expeditions. Starting not to make sense?
The scientist involved in the tours justifies his participation in an attempt to gather animal genes, as animals on earth have become extinct through some virus. He informs us with this through one line of casual dialog, but that's all that is ever mentioned of this point; nothing more and nothing less. That's not good film making.
Sooner rather than later some mishap happens, and a slight incident that happened 65 million years ago while leisurely hunting a T-Rex changes the present as we know it. The effects on the present don't take place the way we've been "trained" by Hollywood: instead of taking place instantly, they take place through "time waves" that come every once in a while. You even see them coming (at what speed does time travel?). And with every time wave that goes by, the present the way you know it changes more and more to the present that would take place as a result of the slight incident from the past. Mechanical things stop working (although auxiliary power generators seem fool proof throughout the film), followed by plants, and then by a new hunter species that is "monkey meets dinosaur" becomes the dominant animal. The only chance our heroes have of saving life as we know it is to prevent that slight incident from happening before the last time wave, the one that erases humanity, washes along. Apparently, humanity is erased last because it's the most sophisticated life form; I don't know who drew that conclusion, but I would assume it would be the first to be erased if that was the case. Did I mention the film doesn't make sense?
All in all you get the feeling that although this film has some sound foundations it was supposed to stand on - the corruption of private companies, the bending down of the government before private companies, the randomness of life and how the slightest thing like the flutter of a butterfly's wings can make a whole lot of a difference - the film is just one big staging for some horror scenes to take place in a modern day like New York, with lots of weird CGI monsters chasing heroes down narrow corridors. It's sad to see all those sound foundations coming down to that. And even this doesn't work that well: the special effects are nothing special; in fact they look quite bad.
Eventually, the question one asks is what an actor like Ben Kingsley doing in a film such as this? Probably the same thing he did in Species.
Best scene: That's a tough one to pick in a shallow film like this. I guess I'd go with the T-Rex hunting scene; it's far from original, but at least it has an impact.
Picture quality: Lots of noise, and overall the special effects are not well blended in. I don't think any real effort was made in the making of this DVD.
Sound quality: Some good moments, but overall quite average for a film so heavily reliant on special effects.
Overall: A disappointing 1.5 stars.

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