Ray Bradbury’s 1952 sci-fi short story A Sound of Thunder posits a future in which time travel is a luxury sport for big-game hunters interested in visiting prehistoric periods to slay dinosaurs, as well as a pastime that poses great risks to the future should the voyagers accidentally interact, in any slight way, with the environment. In what came to be known as “The Butterfly Effect”—a theory that formed the basis for last year’s particularly wretched Ashton Kutcher catastrophe—even doing something as small as killing an insect in a bygone era might produce tremendous ripple effects across the time-space continuum, thereby altering the present in unpredictable ways. Peter Hyams’s long-delayed adaptation of Bradbury’s compact Twilight Zone-esque tale, though, cares little for safeguarding the past, as his confounding film expands upon his landmark source material’s premise in every daft way imaginable.
Charles Hatton (Ben Kingsley) is the rapaciously greedy owner of Time Safari, a business that sends wealthy, bloodthirsty snobs back in time to kill an Allosaurus pre-selected by animal-loving research scientist Travis Ryer (Edward Burns); because the giant is destined to die in a tar pit mere moments before it’s used as target practice, its slaughter won’t alter the natural flow of evolution. When a moronic customer accidentally steps off the hovering path designed by Time Safari to avert physical contact with the ecosystem, 2055 becomes beset by cascading translucent “time waves” which slowly begin transforming the present into an alternate reality. However, why such changes—left creepily vague in Bradbury’s original—are gradual (and watchable) rather than immediate is as perplexing as Kingsley’s off-the-wall speaking cadence and matching white hair and soul patch. Soon, the film’s horribly CG-animated metropolis becomes overrun with horribly CG-animated vegetation, a Jurassic Park-ian wilderness in which horribly CG-animated monsters roam free.
What manner of beast might have evolved on Earth had a single butterfly been squashed 65 million years ago? According to the film, the answer is a truly hilarious species of dinosaur-baboon hybrids which I’ve dubbed Monkeysaurus (but Dinoape, Tyrannoboon, or King Kong Rex would also suffice) and some sort of embarrassing catfish-merman creature that, mercifully, makes only a cameo appearance. To mask the film’s awful special effects work, the Monkeysauruses—who graciously like to rise up on their hind legs and give adversaries a clear shot at their throaty weak spots—chase the thoroughly blank Burns and his smarty-pants sidekick (Catherine McCormack) around dank, pitch-black sets. But shadowy cinematography isn’t enough to conceal Hyams’s crashing directorial clumsiness, just as A Sound of Thunder‘s cautionary tutorial about the hazardous ramifications of century-hopping didn’t quell my desire to journey back in time in order to prevent myself from enduring such monkey business.