Saturday, September 03, 2005

REVIEW: A Sound of Thunder

And here we have a conundrum.

This movie isn't good. It's preposterous, sloppy, obvious and often stunningly amatuerish in it's execution... featuring possibly the least convincing CGI effects of any live-action film you'll see onscreen for years. It's riddled with plot holes, unexplainable developments and more action/scifi cliche's than I could name. It's a mess.

But I liked it. It hit a dozen or more of my more primal cinematic fetish buttons, it made me smile (in one way or another) for the entirety of it's running time.

So hence my conundrum: My "feelings" are analagous to those produced by a good movie, yet I'm fully aware that this is NOT, in fact, a good movie. So, then, what's to be the review? Can "not good, but I had fun anyway" pass as an informed critical opinion?

Well, it's going to have to because that's really all I'm able to muster.

Retelling the landmark story by genre legend Ray Bradbury, "A Sound of Thunder" is a pulp scifi yarn set in 2055, where time travel is possible and exploited by a businessman (Ben Kingsley) who charges obscene fees to send wealthy clients on dinosaur-hunting "safaris" to the Cretaceous. They're only allowed to shoot ONE Allosaurus, whom history records is about to die anyway in a tar pit, and only with special ice-bullets so as not to disturb the past and thus alter the future. The slightest change, we're told, could change history (and biology) in ways we can't imagine.

Guess what happens. Go on, guess.

"Something" goes wrong on an otherwise routine time trip, and suddenly 2055 Earth is getting whacked daily by "time storms" that rewrite the rules of evolution with each passing wave. Before long, our heroes are trying to "set things right" while warding off the killer plants, giant bats, sea serpents and other obstacles created by their meddling. The "star" monsters could be plausibly reffered to as "Babboonasauruses," and look like the offspring of the successful mating of King Kong and Godzilla. Actually, they more immediately remind me of Ymir, and if you know what Ymir is you may also be the sort of person who would actually enjoy this.

If nothing else, it's worth noting that this is an honest-to-goodness B-movie, as opposed to the B-movies with A-budgets that typically dabble in this kind of material. The film looks, though often charmingly so... very cheap. Most of it's "futuristic" exteriors are accomplished using painfully obvious rear-projection and blue screen techniques, the monsters are typically rendered in a CGI that wouldn't pass muster in an XBox cutscene. It's been awhile sense a theatrical release has been ambitious so visibly beyond it's means.

So... it's not good, but I liked it. I really want to be a little harder on it, but the truth is... it has half-dinosaur-half-monkey monsters, which from my perspective makes it at LEAST worth reccomending against similarly un-good films that do NOT have half-dinosaur-half-monkey monsters. If you want rationale, that's the best I can really offer.