A Sound of Thunder
2005Director: Peter Hyams
Cast: Edward Burns, Catherine McCormack, Ben Kingsley
h, boy: The most anticipated film of the year—for all the wrong reasons. Highlighting the travesty that is pre-sales and overseas distribution deals, A Sound of Thunder finally oozes into Australian theatres six months after its U.S. release. Fortunately, it only lasted a week. I wasn’t exactly tripping over myself to see it, but there was a sense of morbid curiosity compelling me to watch, much like witnessing a train wreck or an amputation.
Only Sir Ben Kingsley emerges from the debris, dusting himself off as he stands in the queue at the bank, removing his white wig with an awkward grimace, blood-stained cheque held delicately betwixt forefinger and thumb. No one else makes it out alive. Chief amongst the horribly maimed dead are Catherine McCormack, Ed Burns, and Peter Hyams. McCormack comes closest to being an innocent victim, her lack of enthusiasm evident throughout the feature, her dialogue spoken at a breakneck clip betraying the desire she has for it all to be over sooner rather than later. Edward Burns is another matter. How could the promise of The Brothers McMullen possibly have translated into this? He is at least personable as the time-travelling egghead hunter—tanned, relaxed, quiet, and extremely out of place. We can only hope he simply chose the wrong big-budget pool to dip his toes into. Now, a pinkie or two missing, he will have to carefully consider his options to avoid career hari-kari.
Tempting as it is not to mention the plot at all, it is worth remembering that A Sound of Thunder is based on a very bleak Ray Bradbury short story, in which time-travelling safari hunters accidentally step on a butterfly and change the future irrevocably, wiping out humanity and leaving the planet barren. The coda lies in their realisation that they cannot undo their actions and have condemned all of us to an untimely fate for the sake of cheap thrills. Audience members watching the movie version may experience a similar sensation. Not only has the downbeat ending been unceremoniously dropped in favour of an embarrassing “whew, that was a close shave” collective pat on the back, but the entire premise has been reduced to an “end of level guardian” X-Box-style monster romp.
The main problem here is that the special effects actually look worse than the average X-Box game. The sets were washed away in the Prague floods of 2002, and the film sat on the shelf for several years until a cut-price L.A. FX firm offered to step in and, ahem, “complete” the shots. Evidently, they have never seen Jurassic Park. Hell, they haven’t even seen 1977’s Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger. What is on display here is, from a technical standpoint, far inferior to any film of the past 30 years and shocking to witness.
Which brings us neatly to the film’s director, Peter Hyams. With a canon that includes The Musketeer, End of Days, The Relic, Sudden Death, Timecop, Narrow Margin, The Presidio, 2010, Outland, Hanover Street, and Capricorn One, it is painfully obvious that he has not made a decent movie since 1978, and has, in fact, directed some of the most execrable garbage committed to celluloid in the last two decades. Why anyone would hand him a purported $52 million to make yet another dodgy time-travel monster flick is beyond comprehension. On this evidence, he should not be allowed near a camera ever again. A Sound of Thunder is the apex of irresponsible filmmaking, from a wretched, talentless director; not to be viewed under any circumstances, unless you are contemplating suicide and wish to be driven finally over the edge.