Saturday, October 3, 2009

Worst of the Worst: #93, A Sound of Thunder

I'm assuming you've seen the Letterman video by now -- if you haven't, it's easy enough to find -- so I'm skipping that and focusing on my quest to watch all of Rotten Tomatoes' list of the 100 worst movies of the decade. With Fridays now off -- surprisingly boring -- I hit up Netflix to get #93, A Sound of Thunder, a 2004 sci-fi/action flick starring Edward Burns and Ben Kingsley, in a "did the check clear yet" tour de force. I chose this film first because I had read and enjoyed the Ray Bradbury short story upon which it was based.

The basic premise -- though not the plot -- of the stories are the same. In the future, a company has discovered time travel and uses the technology to sell safaris that travel back to prehistoric times. For a lot of money, a hunter can kill an actual dinosaur. In order to make sure that the past and, therefore, the future are not changed, the company does impeccable research into when a specific dinosaur dies naturally and then makes sure the hunter kills the dinosaur at that exact moment. The company also uses a floating path in the jungle to make sure that no plants or other animals are disturbed and that nothing is brought back.

The movie, which takes place in 2055 (so far in the future!), opens with the group, led by Burns, killing an Allosaurus just as it charges them and gets stuck in that tar pit in which it would have died naturally. All good. They return, celebrate, blah blah blah. The next group, one super gung ho gangster-ish guy -- the movie does take place in Chicago -- and one super nervous guy, goes out. To kill the same exact dinosaur. They go back to the exact same time as the first group, but the first group wasn't there. Huh? Then, there is a technical malfunction and things go wrong as, in running from the dinosaur because they can't kill it, one of the hunters steps off of the floating platform and kills a butterfly. Past is changed so the future has to change. Makes sense?

So they get back to discover everyone complaining about how warm it is in Chicago, much warmer than it should be for that time of year. Then, "time waves" start tearing through the world, making plants grow bigger or evolution wind up differently with some sort of vicious reptilian-primate that looks like a velociraptor with a baboon head. But how do these things keep appearing? Herein is the single worst thing about the movie.

You see, a scientist explains to Burns, when you change the past, the future doesn't change all that once. It takes the future some time to catch up to the changed past, hence the periodic time waves.


Let's talk this out. The dead butterfly means that some flower didn't get pollinated, which means there wasn't food for some creature, so the creature died and evolution happened differently. Okay. But, if you change the past, doesn't whatever come after that just branch off from that changed past? Have you ever heard of any theory or sci-fi story in which the future isn't just changed when you get back to it? So you know something's wrong, but everyone else is oblivious, because to them it's just the way it's always been, since, oh, I don't know, a stupid butterfly got killed that hadn't in your timeline? I know that Ray Bradbury had heard of that kind of theory, because that's what happens in his story. But no, Burns needs to get back to the past to stop the hunter from killing the butterfly to save the future. Because if he can stop the change in the past, even though the future has changed now, it'll all be back to normal. No "time waves" -- which, by the way, every time they hit made the visuals in the movie go into some sort of blurry slo-mo that was completely indecipherable -- in the re-changed future! The movie doesn't even follow it's own ridiculous f***ing theory all the way through!

That verisimilitude-killing stupidity aside, the movie's actually pretty awful. The acting is atrocious, the other stretches of imagination -- like running a particle accelerator off of a back-up generator or using clunky plug-and-play server hard drives instead of blades when everything else is futuristic -- are absurd, and the special effects are Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus-esque.

To signify the coming of the dinosaur, the screen shakes. Sorry, let me put that better. The actors stand still and the camera shakes up and down. Then, in showing the futuristic Chicago where the cars look very much like ours but have crazy future sound effects every time they drive by, the green screen is horrible. There is one scene in which Burns and somebody else are walking through the city and you can clearly tell they are walking in place as the horrible computer graphics change behind them.

Say, like this (though there are more egregious scenes and this one seems to be dubbed into Russian which is even better):

Anyway, four down. 96 to go. Still trying to decide whether I want to hit one a week or squeeze in one more often as I have free time, which I suddenly have in spades.

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