The best thing that can be said for the embarrassing A Sound of Thunder is that at least it presupposes an audience whose belief in evolution is ironclad, sadly a minor triumph in these increasingly Scopes monkey trial-like times.
Adapted with sub-simian grace from the iconic Ray Bradbury story, the film puts us in the year 2055, where a Chicago firm called Time Safari takes wealthy, bored men back in time and hunt dinosaurs. The trick here is that Bradbury - prefiguring all the great time travel paradox stories and films to follow - realized one couldn't just do this without creating massive complications further down the time pipeline. So Time Safari has its hunters walk through the 65-million-year-old jungle on a pathway suspended above the ground, with the strict dictum not to touch anything, never step off the path and not to bring even the most microscopic thing back with them. And the dinosaur that they "hunt" (over and over again) has been selected for the fact that it's going to die anyway, bare seconds after the safari team shoots it. Thusly the time continuum remains unchanged and everybody's happy.
The problems arise when somebody steps off the path. After that, back in 2055 things seem a little... different, as whatever happened in the past has sent shock waves down 65 millions years of interlocking chains of evolution. What this means in practical terms is that if the crack team of time travelers don't fix their little glitch, they stand a good chance of being eaten by the ghastly beasts now running amok through the Loop, its cloud-stabbing skyscrapers shrouded in primeval foliage dozens of stories high.
To describe what's wrong with this perfectly serviceable pulp scenario requires only one word: everything. To begin with, director Peter Hyams has utilized some of the worst special effects seen in a major studio release in some years (the film has been shelved for a considerable time, but not that long). In scene after scene, the cast walks past or through laughably fake dioramas which try to invoke the future by including fleets of toy-like cars and fuzzy, cartoon buildings that surrounding a few recognizable Chicago landmarks. The past looks even worse - Spielberg can rest secure that all these years later, A Sound of Thunder is not going to be challenging Jurassic Park in the special-effects department. So without any ooh and aah to speak of, the audience is left to focus on (ack!) the story and characters.
Since every film these days apparently must have a creepy corporate villain, the forces of filthy lucre are represented here by Charles Hatton, a queeny CEO with a massive shock of alarmingly white hair underneath which we can see a joyfully overacting Ben Kingsley, about the closest thing to entertainment we can expect. Hatton's pursuit of obscene profits are naturally what causes this problem, so it's up to square-jawed scientists Edward Burns and Catherine McCormack to set things right. This involves much running about with flashlights while fighting off wild beasts with guns that shoot bolts of frozen nitrogen - not a exciting as it might sound. About the only moment of wit comes in one shot that pans across Burns' apartment and shows a Cubs pennant: "World Championship - 2022."
In his story, Bradbury describes time travel thusly: "There was a sound like a gigantic bonfire burning all of Time, all the years and all the parchment calendars, all the hours piled high and set aflame." In the film, Burns shouts, "Don't look at the light!" while subpar CGI effects rage around the time travelers. It's just not a fair fight.
Try not to hit your head on anything.