DVD Review HTF REVIEW: A Sound Of Thunder

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Herb Kane, Apr 8, 2006.

  1. Herb Kane

    Herb Kane Screenwriter

    May 7, 2001
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    A Sound Of Thunder

    Studio: Warner Brothers
    Year: 2005
    Rated: PG-13
    Film Length: 110 Minutes
    Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Enhanced Widescreen
    Audio: DD 5.1
    Color/B&W: Color
    Languages: English
    Subtitles: English, French & Spanish
    Genre: Sci-Fi/Action/Adventure
    MSRP: $27.98
    Package: Single disc/Keepcase

    The Feature:
    The place is Chicago and the year is 2055. Time travel has become the new frontier, and the pioneers are Time Safaris, led by silver-tongued entrepreneur and CEO, Charles Hatton (played by Ben Kingsley). For the big game hunter with the big wallet, Hatton runs a trip back to prehistoric Illinois, in which the client gets to bring down an Allosaurus. The time-tripping team includes paleontologist Travis Ryer (played by Edward Burns), who relishes the opportunity of studying dinosaurs first-hand.

    But the original time machine designer, Dr. Sonia Rand (played by Catherine McCormack), believes that Time Safaris should be shut down, because the potential for accidentally altering evolution is too great. Indeed, despite the safety checks put in place, something goes wrong on a time excursion, and Armageddon looms. It’s then up to Travis, Sonia, and their companions to fix the past to avoid losing the future to a series of "time ripples" that are re-shaping the present.

    A Sound of Thunder takes what seems to be a thought-provoking science fiction short story by Ray Bradbury and turns it into a Hollywood action - adventure mess. This approach isn't unique or inherently bad, but its success relies heavily upon execution and adaptation of the source material. Needless to say, A Sound of Thunder is spotty - at best. The premise and underlying ideas are fascinating, but one would expect no less from a movie that uses Ray Bradbury as its source. Unfortunately, nothing comes together.

    Usually for a film of such subject matter, a redeeming quality might be the special features. Not in this case. Too much of this film was designed using a PC. That's only a bad thing when it's obvious, which is the case here. We are overexposed, and a lot of things appear "unreal." The Allosaurus, for example, looks more like something from a B-movie than Jurassic Park, a film one can't help but think of when watching this. It's like that with many of the effects in this film - and this movie is effects-rich. Some are effective, like the aerial shots of 2055 Chicago, but all it takes are a few bad CGI moments to ruin things, and A Sound of Thunder has more than a few.

    There's more to suspension of disbelief than accepting special effects. The question of casting can come into play, as it does here. Edward Burns is a limited actor whose range seems to be overextended in playing a paleontologist or filling the action hero role. Catherine McCormack is accomplished enough that we can accept her as a scientist, and Ben Kingsley can credibly portray any character, including a slimy, fast-talking businessman, but accepting Burns as Travis is a stumbling block.

    Like The Island, A Sound of Thunder takes an interesting science fiction concept and relegates it to the secondary role of servicing a weak action - adventure movie. Director Peter Hyams is no stranger to the genre - his filmography includes some winners, (2010, Outland) and some duds (Timecop, The Relic), although he never seems to induce A Sound of Thunder with the juice necessary to keep the audience involved. Despite a lot of activity, there's not much in the way of energy. The ending seems predetermined, and the overlong, tepid journey makes the payoff most unfulfilling.

    The Feature: 1/5

    Despite my feelings for the film itself, the 2.35.1 enhanced widescreen transfer presents the movie in its original aspect ratio and for the most part, is a fine looking new release. Colors were vibrant and natural looking as was evidenced by the accurate looking skin tones. Saturation levels looked fine as well. Black levels were deep and contrast levels were perfect allowing for exceptional detail during the night and darker scenes.

    The level of image detail was pleasing - not as sharp as a tack, but satisfactory. There is virtually no noise or film grain to speak of and the print was absolutely immaculate and free of any dust or dirt. The image has a slightly processed look but not as bad as a few of the other recent new releases I've witnessed.

    The authoring seems to have been handled well as compression issues are all but non-existent, save for some slight edge enhancement.

    Video: 3.5/5

    Similar to the video presentation, the audio side of things with this DD 5.1 (EX) track, is just as nice. The track is crystal clean and free of any hiss or other noisy distractions. The dialogue was usually bold and intelligible although was noticeably thinner during some of the action sequences.

    There are a host of effects that take place, taking full advantage of a wide dynamic range. The track also has some heft to it which is clearly noticeable during the action scenes and gun shots etc. The soundstage is wide, showing off the orchestrated score which plays throughout the film. Especially noteworthy is the effective use of surrounds which are quite active allowing for a nice sense of envelopment. LFE was equally impressive as its presence makes itself known on several occasions.

    Audio: 3.5/5

    Special Features:
    Surprisingly this new release is wafer thin in terms of supplemental material. The only special features are:
    [*] A pair of Theatrical Trailers. As we would expect, both are perfect in condition, presented in enhanced widescreen. Duration: 1:56 and 00:56 respectively.

    For the DVD consumer conspiracy theorists, perhaps we'll see a boatload of supplements with an upcoming Two-Disc Special Edition.... erm.... maybe we won't.

    Special Features: 1/5

    **Special Features rated for the quality of supplements, not the quantity**

    Final Thoughts:
    When we get to this stage of the review, this is where an injection of the film's likeable and worthy qualities are inserted. Perhaps the performances, the cinematography or even the special effects are worthy of praise. Maybe the direction, or the adaptation should be praised. Heck, even the cover art may get honorable mention. Well, I'm afraid you'll find none of that here. For those of you here who've endured this reviewer's HTF Reviews over the past three years, you'll know that I am usually entertained by most of what I watch - at least to some extent. That said, this is perhaps one of the worst films I have laid my eyes on in some time. Not a redeeming quality to mention - not one.

    Though the presentation is a good one, there is just no possible way to recommend this film on any level. With local rental and retail outlets bursting at the seams with new release titles like Good Night And Good Luck, Brokeback Mountain, Capote and the like, spend your time wisely - life is too short.

    Overall Rating: 2/5 (not an average)

    Release Date: March 28th, 2006
  2. Carl_G

    Carl_G Stunt Coordinator

    Dec 29, 2004
    Likes Received:
    Thanks for the review, you probably saved me a few bucks. I am such a fan of this genre that I probably would have picked this up regardless of my vague recollection of poor theater reviews. $15 saved, thanks!

    Movies like this actually piss me off that they exist. Very similar to Millennium - remember that crapfest? It was based on an amazing book by John Varley. It held the coveted 'eye level shelf' position on my bookshelf. It is an AMAZING classic, we even studied it in college in a SciFi/Fantasy lit course.

    Now, I just groan because it's hard to read again and not see Kris Kristofferson and Cheryl Ladd dragging it down the crapper.

    And, similarly, here we have a great short work by a true master, Ray Bradbury, absolutely butchered for the big screen.

    Maybe we need a time machine, where we could go back on safari and take out these directors and producers who bastardize these great works of science fiction before they ever start....
  3. Jake Lipson

    Jake Lipson Supporting Actor

    Dec 21, 2002
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    I braved the bad reviews and went to see this in theaters on opening weekend -- my BIRTHDAY weekend, no less -- because I love Bradbury's work so much and because we read the short story in school and I loved it. Given that, I felt it was my responsibility to see the movie just to see how it was done to lay my curiosity to rest.

    It was the worst movie I have ever seen in my entire life, EVER, bar none. Nothing else even comes close to the low level of this utter abomination. I too look for SOMETHING to like in almost everything I watch, even the bad movies, but this was just appalling. Herb's right -- there is nothing whatsoever reccomendable about this movie. On my birthday weekend the previous year, the movie I went to see was the brilliant "Hero," and I so wanted to be back there watching that again. Dad paid my admission to this one and I still want my money back, not to mention the time I wasted on it over my BIRTHDAY WEEKEND. Sigh.

    It's a great pity really, because the story as Bradbury wrote it is absolutely wonderful. The movie is a complete bastardization of everything that his works stands for -- but then again "The Princess Diaries" bastardized Meg Cabot's great book series and ended up being a decent movie if taken on its own terms. This, however, couldn't even be called good if it had nothing to do with Bradbury's source.

    My advice: Read Bradbury's short story. It's a piece of genius. This is a piece of crap; leave it and flock to the brilliant stuff.

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