Awfully Good: A Sound of Thunder + Big Top Pee-Wee (Video)
While Michael Bay makes time travel awesome in PROJECT ALMANAC, we look at one of the worst movie ever made on the subject…
A Sound of Thunder (2005)
Director: Peter Hyams
Stars: Edward Burns, Ben Kingsley, Catherine McCormack
Time traveling tourists accidentally alter the past, causing a chain reaction that turns their reality in to horribly rendered CGI environments that…
Oh wait; those aren't part of the plot? FUUUUUU—
There were a lot of things working against A SOUND OF THUNDER from the start. Original director Renny Harlin was fired from production when Ray Bradbury, author of the classic sci-fi short story, allegedly hated all of his creative decisions. (And given the opinion of one of the greatest writers of the 20th century versus the guy coming off of CUTTHROAT ISLAND and DEEP BLUE SEA, I tend to trust the former.) When Harlin left, original star Pierce Brosnan went with him and Peter Hyams and Edward Burns were brought in as their respective replacements. Production was moved from Montreal to the Czech Republic, where floods eventually destroyed many of the sets. And to top it off, once they were done filming, the production company went bankrupt, leaving the unfinished film to sit on the shelf for over two years.
It seems like God himself didn't want A SOUND OF THUNDER to be made. It's a shame he didn't succeed.
Visual Effects Director: "Okay team, let's set the bar high. Try to make everything look as good as The Rock in THE MUMMY RETURNS."
For the people who ever saw this movie—and given it didn't crack $2 million box office in the U.S., that's not a big number—the most memorable thing about it is the terrible special effects. A SOUND OF THUNDER has perhaps some of the worst use of CGI in a majorly produced, theatrically released motion picture. When the producers went bankrupt, the post-production budget was slashed and the poor visual effects team was forced to use off-the-shelf software with short rendering times in order to get the film done. You can imagine the results. Everything comes off like unfinished pre-viz: the shiny dinosaurs that look like plastic toys, the atrocious underwater creatures and effects, and perhaps the most laughable use of greenscreen ever. Had the filmmakers known about the monetary shortfall, maybe they could've planned better, as opposed to forcing the VFX artists to create an entire futuristic cityscape out of scratch for five dollars.
Shot on location in Greenscreen, Wisconsin.
And when it comes to adapting one of the most influential time travel stories, let's just say I want to know what Renny Harlin had planned, because I can't imagine it was any worse than this sci-fi travesty. A SOUND OF THUNDER takes place in 2055, when time travel has apparently been invented, but for some reason is only being used by one wealthy businessman as a means to let rich white people go back and hunt dinosaurs. All the clever/interesting parts of this enterprise—walking only on levitating pathways, using ice bullets, killing only animals that are about to die anyways—all come from Bradbury's story. Everything else is poorly thought out dreck. (Even the time machine is lame: a roller coaster car powered by a talking computer that sounds like your GPS lady.) The same premise applies: one of the time tourists unknowingly kills a butterfly millions of years in the past, which has dire consequences when they return to the future. Except in Bradbury's story the changes were more subtle and introspective of humanity and society. In the film adaptation, however, killing a butterfly somehow leads to baboons f*cking dinosaurs and producing rage-filled offspring that make no biological sense. You read that correctly. When the scientists return, in addition to heat waves, killer plants, suicidal fish and flesh-eating beetles, they discover society is also plagued by armies of bizarre primate-reptile hybrids that sleep upside down and hunt humans. I know, the movie's logic would have you believe that anything can happen with millions of years of evolution but not this. LOOK AT THIS CREATURE. IT IS TOO DUMB TO BE EVOLUTIONARILY POSSIBLE.
A rare glimpse at Khloe Kardashian in her natural habitat.
This is only one of a hundred common sense-defying decisions or stadium-sized plot holes made obvious to anyone with a few loose brain cells. But nothing is worse than how A SOUND OF THUNDER handles time-travel. If you thought directing TIMECOP would give Peter Hyams a leg up on this movie, you are sorely mistaken. Granted, movies are always creating their own rules when it comes to time travel, but I am revoking this film's rights due to gross ineptitude. In A SOUND OF THUNDER, when the travelers return to the present, the changes aren't immediate. They come in waves—a literal, visible time tsunami that crashes through the city bringing evolutionary updates with it. There are people in this movie running from time in the same way that Mark Wahlberg ran from the wind in THE HAPPENING. It's a mind-boggling narrative device that never should've made it past the first pitch meeting and a cheap way to create tension in a movie trying to stretch a short story to two hours. Each time wave brings a different outcome (which the scientist is able to predict somehow)—first its climate change, then vegetation, then insects and animals, and then humans will evolve or devolve to their next natural state. This raises so many logical questions the movie doesn't bother to answer. But worst of all is that it doesn't even follow its own rules. When the hero inevitably saves the day and corrects the past, when he returns to the future, everything is back to normal instantaneously. Was no one paying attention while they were shooting this?!
Face lice are the worst.
I can't even feign enough emotion about this movie to feel sympathy for the cast. Ed Burns snores through his role and barely reminds you he's alive. Ben Kingsley gets paid to be there too, as a white-haired corporate tycoon with a soul patch. Catherine McCormack makes no impression, except reminding me that I saw her naked in BRAVEHEART. The only possible bright spot is a small supporting role by David Oyelowo, the should-be Oscar-nominated actor who played Martin Luther King Jr. in SELMA. It just goes to show that anyone can get their start anywhere, even in a terrible, embarrassing movie like this. Oh, and of course the plays the black guy who dies first.
"To paychecks… Cheers!"
Featuring product placement and white guys talking about their balls.
From baboon-dinosaurs to greenscreen acting, the best of the worst CGI.
None. And I'm sure if there was nudity it would be horribly rendered.
Take a shot or drink every time:
- Bad CGI is onscreen
- A line of dialogue is repeated more than once
- Someone is killed
- Someone finally remembers to watch the video recording
- There is product placement for Home Depot
Double shot if:
- A Time Wave hits
Hold up! We've got one more Awfully Good to share with you, this one from our video column, Awfully Good Movies! This week's video column features the not-so-classic Pee-Wee adventure BIG TOP PEE-WEE! It's so funny we forgot to laugh! (okay, we'll stop). Enjoy!
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