Fifty years in the future things have not changed much in the man-eat-man worlds of wealth and power, and the individuals and industries that crop up to exploit them. In 2055, Time Safari, an elite travel agency, is selling the latest hi-tech breakthrough toy, time travel, to the bored privileged few seeking amusing distraction. TAMI, the time travel machine, is the offspring born of altruistic scientists, willing to compromise their ethical values to pursue their burning scientific interests. In no time at all serious blunders are made, and 60 million years of evolutionary history begins to unravel. In a futuristic Chicago looking very much like 2005 New Orleans, time is running out to prevent the apocalyptic erasure of the human species altogether.
A Sound of Thunder reworks popular master storyteller Ray Bradburys 1952 tale of the same name, giving the classic philosophical thought problem of time travel mostly cosmetic, computer-generated embellishments. The premise, that time travel works only if absolutely nothing is altered in the process of paying even the briefest visit to bag a dinosaur, begs the question. Of course something is changed, unless time-traveling humans are part of the evolutionary process. Mostly, this film is another spin around the Jurassic Park amusement park dinosaur ride.
Considering all the money and labor spent on the special effects, the resultant cheesy look is obnoxiously distracting. Hero-scientist Travis Ryer (Edward Burns) and almost-a love interest female number one Jenny Krase (Jemima Rooper) bustle across downtown Chicago, against obvious green-screen backgrounds filled with the lockstep uniformity of computer-generated pedestrians and enormous vine-like trees sprouting everywhere. In this visual jungle it becomes difficult to overlook the paucity of compelling acting, direction or script.
There are a few thrills on this ride, thankfully. Altering history is envisioned in the film as a series of time waves, washing over the face of the earth like oceanic tidal waves. Beginning with profound climatic changes, then working its way up the evolutionary chart, each wave brings new horrors and reduced technologies. As the plot re-evolves into the gothic horror vein, with each wave new species pop up to delight and thrill the audience. As the horror mounts, Chicago becomes an alternatively evolving Island of Dr. Moreau.
Several gratuitous beefcake scenes of a furry and buff Edward Burns provide the primary motivation for the equally gratuitous love-interest subplots, with Jemima as well as female number two, Sonia Rand (Catherine McCormack), TAMIs true inventor. Idealistic Dr. Rand has become cynical, having been robbed not only of copyright but even of acknowledgment as the inventor. (The corporate world always punishes mavericks, even as it exploits them.) Alas, McCormicks fine on-screen presence is unable to save the film from itself. And Ben Kingsleys appearance, as the dapperly unctuous entrepreneur Charles Hatton, is the most inexplicable gratuity of all.