Friday, December 15, 2006

Review: A Sound of Thunder

You might expect that a movie based on a Ray Bradbury short story might not live up to its source material. But if it's got a gun-toting, chiseled hero leading an expedition across a futuristic, jungle-covered city that's inhabited by sea serpents, giant bats, and baboonosaurs... well, that's got to be awesome, right?

Not so much.

I've never read Bradbury's original version of "A Sound of Thunder," but I've read comics adaptations of it, so I'm familiar with what happens. Even though Bradbury's story says that changing history by altering the past can't be undone, I figured that the movie would mostly be about just that. And that's okay. Really, Bradbury's story makes its point and then just ends at a rather unsatisfying place, so I've got no problem with the idea of continuing from there and having the heroes try to fix things. Especially if doing so involves futuristic, jungle-covered cities and baboonosaurs.

Unfortunately, the special effects in the film version of A Sound of Thunder are beneath bad and into "laughable" territory. The dinosaur in the prehistoric sequences looks like it was created for a video game, and the blue screen work -- which puts the characters into the setting of futuristic Chicago -- is ridiculous. Thanks to flat imagery and goofy lighting, you never for a second believe that the characters actually inhabit the backgrounds in the exterior shots of the city. There are even a couple of shots of characters walking through the city where the actors are very clearly walking in place as the scenery moves past behind them. The baboonosaurs and other monsters are all well-designed, but no more realistic than the prehistoric dinosaur.

The acting by the main cast is absolutely fine (I mean, it's got Ben Kingsley in it, for goodness sake, and Jemima Rooper from Hex), but I actually gasped at how poorly some of the bit part actors delivered their lines.

It's a shame, because this could've been a fun, simple, adventure movie, even if it wasn't an intelligent adaptation of Bradbury's story. Glaring parts of it are so amateurish though, that I was never able to just sit back and enjoy the cheese.

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