In any era, the time-travel adventure movie "A Sound of Thunder" is just awful.
"It wasn't a bug that he stepped on, it was evolution," says Travis Ryer (Edward Burns), the leader of the hunting expeditions into the remote past, arriving a bit late at the insight.
Wait a minute! Hunting expeditions 63 million years into the past!? Won't that wreck something?
Nope. These folks are careful to kill one particular Allosaurus that is about to get mired in a tar pit, just before a volcano erupts and kills it. And they use frozen nitrogen bullets that just evaporate, leaving nothing disturbed. They even have three rules for time travel (overseen by the Temporal Regulatory Agency) that are certain to keep things in order: Don't leave anything behind, don't bring anything back and don't step off the path.
Several successful hunts are accomplished, and the safari guides seem to be slipping into "Groundhog Day" mode same hunt, same spot, same dinosaur, same post-hunt speech by the tycoon who runs Time Safari, Charles Hatton (Sir Ben Kingsley?! What are you doing here?). Until one day, when the inevitable mistake happens: Ryer's rifle won't fire and the dinosaur tries to go chompy, resulting in the butterfly stomp.
Evolutionary mayhem doesn't happen instantly but in thunderous "time waves." Plants grow wild, tearing up buildings and roads. A new species, looking a bit like "Jurassic Park" raptors but with monkey faces and mannerisms, begin dining on humans. Some flying pterosaur-like creatures develop an appetite for the creamy people filling of SUVs. And a giant eel lives in the flooded subway.
Telegraphing a lazy script, monsters and time waves show up in too-convenient fashion. For example, moments after someone expresses fear about something in the water, we meet the eel. It's all too predictable.
So are the characters.
Ryer gets help from the time machine's inventor, Dr. Sonia Rand (Catherine McCormack), who Hatton cheated out of her patent. Ryer, Rand and the time-travel team move through Chicago trying to figure out what went wrong, so Ryer can be sent back in time to fix things.
That's where the movie goes the most wrong, violating Rule No. 1 of science fiction: The fantasy must work consistently throughout the movie. But because none of the hunting parties who go to the same place at the same time to kill the same dinosaur ever see each other, how can Ryer return to the same spot to stop things from going awry? Dumb.
Anyway, Ryer and Rand predictably save the world, and humans stay human.
One redeeming feature of this picture is that it will make great fodder for those make-fun-of-the-movie TV shows.
'A Sound of Thunder'
Directed by Peter Hyams; screenplay by Thomas Dean Donnelly, Joshua Oppenheimer and Gregory Poirier, adapted from a short story by Ray Bradbury; photographed by Hyams; edited by Sylvie Landra; music by Nick Glennie-Smith; production design by Richard Holland; produced by Moshe Diamant, Howard Baldwin and Karen Baldwin. A Warner Bros. Pictures release; opened Friday. Running time: 1:42. MPAA rating: PG-13 (for sci-fi violence, partial nudity and language).
Travis Ryer - Edward Burns
Sonia Rand - Catherine McCormack
Charles Hatton - Ben Kingsley
Jenny Krase - Jemima Rooper
Tech Officer Payne - David Oyelowo