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Some film genres lend themselves to the Jaws-style slow reveal, where tantalizing glimpses of a crucial plot element are dropped throughout a film, methodically building tension over time. It works with monster movies, and it works with mysteries. But applying the same mentality to an action movie is suicide. At the risk of making an overly broad and limiting generalization, it's generally wise to make sure an action movie's plot has actually kicked into gear by the time the first hour has elapsed.


Hacky director Peter Hyams (Timecop, The Relic) gets that wrong, along with virtually everything else, in A Sound Of Thunder, a plodding, bloated, long-shelved adaptation/expansion of Ray Bradbury's classic short story about the dangers of time travel. In Bradbury's economical original, a mercenary company transports obscenely rich sportsmen into the distant past to gun down dinosaurs that are about to die anyway. Clients are commanded to stay on a specially designed path, touching nothing, but when one panics, flees, and crushes an insect, 65 million years of compounded changes ripple through the timeline, instantly and irrevocably altering the future. A Sound Of Thunder's screenwriters (Sahara collaborators Thomas Dean Donnelly and Joshua Oppenheimer and Tomcats writer-director Gregory Poirier) make that ripple effect literal: After mysteriously tan, tough, and muscled genetic engineer Edward Burns returns from the ill-fated dino hunt, shrill, supercilious scientist Catherine McCormack points out the tsunami-like "timewaves" revising evolution all over the world, starting with lower life-forms and working their way up. In order to prevent the final timewave from erasing or altering mankind, Burns, McCormack, and a collection of doomed ablative extras must fight their way through newly evolved superbats and dino-monkeys around future Chicago on a series of time-consuming errands that seem more like stalling tactics than crisis management.

In fact, the entire film feels like it's awkwardly killing time until the last-minute heroics can begin. Laborious setups, ponderous exposition, pointless subplots, awkward pseudoscience, bland chitchat from the thinly written extras, laughably bad special-effects sequences, and monumental logical flaws all help pad Bradbury's simple premise out to feature length, and Hyams helps out by buffering all the filler with extensive, repetitive shots of his shiny CGI-based future Chicago, and overextending every action scene to a grueling degree. When one character sacrifices himself to dino-mandrills to buy his friends time to flee, and they instead stand around gaping, watching shot after shot after teeth-grindingly redundant shot of those monsters slowly advancing on him, it becomes clear that monsters, characters, and director are all caught up in the same conspiracy: If they can just put off the inevitable long enough, eventually, the audience might nod off. And they're guaranteed to have more entertaining dreams than this.