Classification: Alternate Reality
A Sound of Thunder is the movie version of Ray Bradbury’s famous short story. This short story is responsible for the term “the butterfly effect”… and now that I’ve told you that, you can probably guess the movie’s entire plot. The movie version is slightly different from the short story, though the basic idea is the same.
A couple of decades from now, in 2055, a company perfects a technology that enables sending people back in time. Primarily intending the technology to be used for money making, they offer a tourist package to wealthy people: pay a hefty fee, and go back with a tour guide on a great dinosaur hunting adventure.
As a side note, one can’t help but wonder why the inventors of this technology simply cannot go back a few days and – oh, I don’t know – buy lottery tickets that with the winning numbers (which are already known in the present). Nonetheless, this is generally a legitimate premise.
Back to the plot: there are two types of risks for the company. The first is that someone may get hurt: dinosaurs are exceptionally dangerous creatures, and even with a highly trained team, something can still go wrong. The second is subtler: during a trip to the past, there is a risk that something may be changed that will propagate through time and affect the present in catastrophic ways.
In order to ward off this dangerous possibility, the company has a very specific set of rules on how the tourists and personnel should act: they are only allowed to walk on a designated path, which is heavily monitored by the security personnel. Furthermore, they are only allowed to shoot a specific dinosaur that is already known to have died in the near future. Thus, they believe the timeline would be preserved.
But something goes wrong: when a tyrannosaurus rex fails to die, a client panics and leaves the approved path. Fortunately, the security team takes over and nothing bad happens. Everyone then quickly returns to the present, and are relieved to see all is as it should be. Phew!
But not long afterwards certain things begin to change… and not just once, but multiple times. A careful investigation finds that when the client went off the path, he accidentally stepped on a prehistoric butterfly-like creature, which is found, dead, on the tourist’s shoe. Apparently, this started a cascade of events that has enormous ramifications on the present. I won’t spoil the rest – you’ll have to see the movie to find out!
Bradbury’s short story is a classic, in particular since it illustrates a subtle point very well. In the story, someone accidentally steps on a butterfly, and when he returns everything is completely different – the entire society is transformed. In my opinion, this is really how the story should be told. However, since translating this story into film will only take 20-25 minutes, the movie drags the point much, much longer.
Even worse, the movie turns this rather imaginative premise to an action/horror movie… and not even a good one! Although the acting was not bad, the plot dragged way too long, the effects weren’t that good, and – well – it wasn’t that interesting! I don’t intend to spoil the movie, but the final scene was unintentionally comical (it was probably supposed to be horrific!). Really gave me a good laugh.
In summary, an okay action/sci-fi movie, if you have nothing else to do. Otherwise, skip it.
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Tags: Alternate reality, Dinosaurs, Past, Time agency