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Evolution Really Wasn't What This Story Was Supposed To Be About

  • Apr 18, 2006
Ray Bradbury is a great American author and one of the people that popularized science fiction into the mainstream a half a century ago. His stories and novels are widely read and studied. His stories would make great motion pictures if they were ever given the right treatment. Unfortunately, other than the Disney adaptation of SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES, none of his stories or novels has ever received the big screen treatment they deserve. One of Bradbury's most memorable and enduring short stories is A SOUND OF THUNDER. The tale of time travel first popularized the idea of "the butterfly effect" and has even been parodied on THE SIMPSONS. I first became acquainted with the story one Saturday while watching a rerun of the THE RAY BRADBURY THEATER on cable. I was fascinated by the story but was somewhat dismayed with the cheap production values.

When I learned that the story had been made into a major motion picture starring Edward Burns, Ben Kingsley, and Catherine McCormack I was rather excited. I thought that finally Bradbury's classic tale was going to receive the cinematic telling that it so deserves.

In the original story, Time Safari, Inc. is a company that takes people back through time 65 million years where they are allowed to kill a dinosaur. Extreme precautions are taken to prevent anything in the time line from being altered. However, upon returning after one trip it is apparent that something went wrong. The writing on the walls is the same, but in a slightly different style. The color of the sky doesn't look different, but feels different. The biggest alteration, though, is that a Hitler-esque dictator who lost the Presidential election the day before now has won and the new regime has already begun taking control. To their horror the crew discovers a butterfly crushed beneath the boot of the one of the time travelers, Eckels. Travis, the leader of the time travel expedition is so horrified that he pulls out a gun and fires it at Eckels. The story ends with a sound of thunder, presumably with the death of Eckels by Travis.

The movie version of the story takes a slightly different angle on the story. The basic premise remains the same and the two key characters in the story, Eckels and Travis (though that is his first name now) remain and are key to the plot. The first third of the movie sets up the back story, much of which remains from Bradbury's tale. However, after the first act, that's when the changes begin. Instead of a dictator that rules the country upon their return and having Travis shoot at Eckels, the sound of thunder becomes a literal sound of thunder as a time waves reaches the future changing everything in its path to correspond with the changes in time and evolution that have occurred because of what was altered in the past. Travis and his team then have to hunt Eckels down to discover what was changed and fix it before the world becomes unalterably changed.

I give the filmmaker credit for their take on Bradbury's tale. The whole time wave thing departs from the original story, but it does remain true to the premise and main message of the story: small actions result in huge consequences. Considering the rather limited budget of the production company, credit should also be given for creativity. It is true that some of the special effects look like something done by Ray Harryhausen in his heyday, but to me that adds a certain bit of charm to the film (CGI has ruined all imagination in the minds of most modern moviegoers). Also, considering the material to work with, that acting is rather well done (as it should be with a cast that includes Edward Burns and Ben Kingsley).

With that said, A SOUND OF THUNDER isn't the type of movie that it could or should have been. There is a major plot hole in the general structure of the film because when Time Safari Inc. takes people back in time they always return to the same spot. If this is true, they should see multiple selves of themselves every time they travel there. Even given the Harryhausen appeal of some of the special effects, many of the other effects in the film are terrible, so much so that it is distracting (there are points that you can see the outline of the actors from the green screen). As the world changes with each time wave, the variety of creatures that are seen is quite limited. In fact, while racing on land the characters only meet some venomous plants and a weird monkey-reptile hybrid species that becomes their chief adversary. There are no dinosaurs or huge mammals; just monkey-reptiles, giant bats, a man-eating eel, and some poisonous semi-intelligent plants. Not only that, Eckels is no longer the bad man he was in the story and when the butterfly is discovered on the bottom of a boot, the scientists all call it a butterfly but anyone who has studied basic entomology at all knows it is a moth.

I realize that A SOUND OF THUNDER faced some major production values. It was mostly filmed in Prague and the studio was almost completely wiped out there during the floods. The damage was so severe that the original production company went bankrupt and the special effects had to be completed on the cheap. Originally slated for a fall 2003 release, the movie didn't arrive in theatres until September 2005-two years later and three and a half years after principal photography had wrapped. With all those problems, some leeway can be granted. Nevertheless, the final result is just an average movie with some very interesting ideas that once again fails to give A SOUND OF THUNDER the treatment it deserves.

The only extras the DVD has are a couple of trailers.

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More A Sound of Thunder reviews
review by . August 19, 2010
   I came across this gem a few days ago and was just going to put a quick tip, but I think it's God-awful enough for a review.      To start, I was shocked to find out this was not a "Sy-Fy" original after I looked it up. I came across it this weekend after plopping down at 11pm in a hotel room at Lake Tahoe and it was one of the few channels getting decent reception. Would I expect anymore when the villains are dinosaur apes and an evil time travel company …
review by . August 25, 2010
Time Waves and Monkey Lizards. Yes, you heard me correctly.
Director Peter Hyams is no rookie when it comes to bad films. He has made more than his fair share. The best that can be said is that he’s an average director capable of decent work. His films range from acceptable (Outland and 2010: The Year We Make Contact) to forgettable (The Star Chamber and Narrow Margin) and ocasionally regrettable (Timecop, Sudden Death, The Relic, End of Days). None of his past films, however, reach the level of cinematic atrocity that A Sound of Thunder manages to …
review by . March 30, 2006
posted in Movie Hype
Ray Bradbury, run and hide! This tacky film version of his short story from the 1950s about time travel and the effect it might have on de-evolution is not well known from the theatrical run (did it have one?) and exists now as a DVD on the shelves released during a slow week.     What looks to be a fancy sci-fi thriller form the opening scenes quickly fools us as the computer generated graphics are re-run unaltered throughout a film that is supposed to be about different 'trips' …
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About this movie


A Sound of Thunder is a science fiction film released in 2005, and directed by Peter Hyams. The film was planned originally for a 2002 release. However, flooding in Prague (where the production was filmed) and other financial difficulties—- including the bankruptcy of the original production company during post-production[citation needed]—- resulted in a delayed release. A Sound of Thunder is based loosely upon the short story "A Sound of Thunder" by Ray Bradbury. The film is about "time tourists" who accidentally interfere too much with the past and thus completely alter their present.

Contents []

[edit] Plot

According to the film, the established rules of time travel are:

  1. Don't change anything in the past.
  2. Don't leave anything behind.
  3. Don't bring anything back.

These protocols were established, in part, by businessman Charles Hatton (Ben Kingsley) who has recently developed a time tourism service called Time Safari. For an extraordinary price, Time Safari will take clients through a wormhole to a time in pre-history to hunt dinosaur game. Scientist Travis Ryer (Edward Burns) is the designated leader for these safari expeditions, along with several other guides. Only creatures that are doomed to perish—such as dinosaurs about to die in a volcanic eruption—are downed by safari patrons. ...

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Genre: Action, Adventure, Fantasy, Sci-Fi
Release Date: September 2, 2005
MPAA Rating: PG-13
DVD Release Date: March 28, 2006
Runtime: 1hr 41min
Studio: Warner Home Video
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