A massive flop for Warner Bros. after Franchise Pictures went bankrupt, A Sound of Thunder didn’t even trickle into theaters back in 2005. It was quietly slipped out to regain anything from its $50 million budget, and it really didn’t even do that ($1.8 million total gross). That’s a shame, since aside from the glaring plot holes, Thunder had some potential.
Taking its concepts from the classic Ray Bradbury short story of the same name, Thunder is a wildly fun summer blockbuster that misses the blockbuster part. Ben Kingsley is the saving grace of this on-again, off-again adventure, playing the hilariously shrewd owner of the world’s only time travel company in the year 2055. When one of his clients accidentally steps on something during the prehistoric era, it changes the present day into a death trap.
It’s a unique idea with some great concepts for action sequences. A few of them go off as planned, while the rest are forced to crumble against a failing studio that couldn’t afford to keep going. Certain shots of actors walking about in a futuristic city are impossibly bad as they walk out of sync with what’s going on behind them. An Allosaurus attack at the opening of the film starts things off poorly too, as the CG nature of the critter is painfully obvious.
Some sequences do succeed, and it’s a glimpse of what could have been. A bat attack is expertly crafted in the classic American creature-feature stylings, and the eerie death of one lead character as he slips out of consciousness is great. Creature designs are also excellent, at least when they’re executed well enough from an effects standpoint.
Unfortunately, moviegoers tend to think once in a while, even when watching something like this. The multiple glaring, obvious, and ridiculously ignored plot holes are too much. While the natural dialogue creates a small history from our present day to the futuristic setting nicely, anything involving time travel rips this story to shreds. Even a small child should be asking questions as they watch it (and parents note that the PG-13 is somewhat harsh). The finale even banks on one of the film’s obvious missteps for its conclusion.
Even if A Sound of Thunder falls flat, it’s still possible to get some entertainment out of it. It offers some mild thrills, it’s energetic, paced properly, and the story concept is a great one. Unfortunately, all the attempts to fill in Bradbury’s short story go haywire. It’s also Warner’s fault for not giving this one a chance, leaving the film in an unfinished state after acquiring it from the bankruptcy. Some decent effects would have made the plot holes more bearable.
Not surprisingly, there’s been little care in transferring this to DVD. Compression is awful, marring every scene and every frame. Top that off with grain and you’ve got an unbearable presentation. There’s a distinct lack of detail here too with a fuzzy look throughout. The black levels are the only positive, creating a nice contrast to some sharp color.
Warner must have skimped on sound guys too. This 5.1 mix is overloaded on bass, so much so it becomes the powering force of the action sequences. No, there’s little dialogue you’ll need to hear as the attacks commence, but it drowns out all the other audio pieces as well. There’s a distinct lack of surround work anywhere too.
The region 2 DVD release would snag a few brief features. For the American release, we’re served with two trailers and nothing more. If the features are out there, why not put them on the disc for the four people who will buy the disc? (No stars)
There’s no question A Sound of Thunder wouldn’t have worked on a wide audience as it looks now. With some work though, it could have been salvageable. The odd thing is that Warner never ran a single TV ad, the video game eventually made it out with no fanfare, and there was zero attempt to market it in anyway. If you’re not going to get the word out, why bother releasing it at all?