Tag Archives: ray bradbury

A Sound of Thunder

A Sound of Thunder

Today, I’m going to take a look at 2005’s A Sound of Thunder: an ill-fated adaptation of a classic science-fiction tale.

The plot of A Sound of Thunder is summarized on IMDb as follows:

When a scientist sent back to the prehistoric era strays off the path he causes a chain of events that alters history in disastrous ways.

The cast of A Sound of Thunder includes Edward Burns (Saving Private Ryan, Alex Cross), Ben Kingsley (Gandhi, Sexy Beast, Schindler’s List, Iron Man 3, Lucky Number Slevin, Suspect Zero), Catherine McCormack (Braveheart, Spy Game), Corey Johnson (Captain Phillips, Jackie), and David Oyelowo (Selma, The Cloverfield Paradox, The Last King of Scotland, Nina).

A Sound of Thunder is based on a short story of the same name written by science-fiction legend Ray Bradbury, which was originally published in 1952. While this is the only film adaptation of the story, it has been translated to the small screen twice: once on The Ray Bradbury Theater, and another time in parody form on The Simpsons.

The screenwriters for this wayward adaptation of the Bradbury story were Thomas Dean Donnelly (Sahara, Conan The Barbarian), Joshua Oppenheimer (Dylan Dog: Dead of Night), and Gregory Poirier (National Treasure: Book of Secrets).

A Sound of Thunder was directed and shot by Peter Hyams, whose other films include Timecop, Sudden Death, Stay Tuned, Capricorn One, End of Days, and The Presidio, among others.

The editor for the film was Sylvie Landra, who also cut The Fifth Element, Leon: The Professional, and Catwoman, among other films.

The music for A Sound of Thunder was composed Nick Glennie-Smith, whose other works include Heaven Is For Real, We Were Soldiers, The Man In The Iron Mask, The Rock, and Home Alone 3.

Renny Harlin was the original director for the project, and even had Pierce Brosnan on board as the star. However, he was fired by the producers after he apparently made a creative decision that displeased Ray Bradbury, paving the way for Hyams to take over.

During filming of the movie in 2002, heavy floods damaged the sets, causing significant delays. Also, the production company wound up going bankrupt during the post-production process, meaning there was little-to-no money to finish the film. The combination of these factors led to the film’s release date being delayed by a total of two years.

A Sound of Thunder brought in just under $11.7 million in its lifetime theatrical run. However, given this take was on an estimated production budget of $80 million, the film was a huge financial failure. Critically, it didn’t fare any better: currently, it holds an IMDb user rating of 4.2/10, alongside Rotten Tomatoes scores of 6% from critics and 18% from audiences.

In his review for SPLICEDwire, Rob Blackwelder described A Sound of Thunder as “a catastrophe of bad acting, ludicrous science and conspicuously cheap special effects.” Personally, I can’t imagine a more succinct summary of the film. While I don’t feel nearly as strongly about the acting (it wasn’t notable enough to be notably bad), the science writing and special effects are mind-boggling: there are misunderstandings about basic evolutionary concepts, and the creatures all look like they walked out of an MS-DOS computer game. Interestingly, I think both of these notable weaknesses of the film trace back to issues with the production: the bad effects are a direct result of the bankruptcy of the production company before the film’s completion, and the writing issues relate to the screenplay attempting to be both an adaptation and expansion on the Bradbury source material.

Lawrence Toppman of The Charlotte Observer made an observation in his review of the film that I definitely agree with:

Some of this might have passed muster in a Twilight Zone episode, which would have been an ideal home for such a tale.

This material is basically tailor-made for a short-form adaptation: had this movie been made for the small screen (and with a shorter run time), the screenplay would have side-stepped having to speculate the sequence of events after the source story concluded. The voice of the screenplay would have sounded more consistent, and the more scientifically illiterate later acts of the film wouldn’t have been necessary in the first place. The more I think about it, the more this seems like an ideal story for a 1 hour television movie: something that might have been more realistic for a production plagued by financial issues from the start.

All in all, A Sound of Thunder is a shockingly terrible exemplar of what happens when the money for a film runs out before the visual effects are truly complete, and should serve as a cautionary tale to those who seek to dramatically modify and expand on source materials in their screenplays. I can recommend giving it a watch up until the “butterfly effect” moment, in which the time stream is initially distorted: the ending point of the Bradbury short story. While the film still isn’t good up until that point, the initial dinosaur effects are awe-inducingly terrible, and worth the 20-30 minutes for the first act. After that point, though, I’d say it is more than worth bailing out: there is nothing of worth beyond it.

 

Advertisements

Stuart Gordon Spotlight: “The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit”

The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit

icecream1

Welcome back to Misan[tope]y Movie Blog’s two week spotlight on Stuart Gordon! Today, I’ll be highlighting the children’s film “The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit”

“The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit” united one of the most acclaimed horror directors, Stuart Gordon, with one of the undisputed masters of science fiction writing in history: Ray Bradbury. Unfortunately, their collaboration was not to be a science fiction horror classic, but a family-friendly adaptation of a short story about a white suit.

“The Magic White Suit” by Ray Bradbury was published in 1958 in the Saturday Evening Post, and was eventually retitled and popularized as “The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit.” Prior to the film, it was adapted by Ray Bradbury himself as both a traditional stage play and a musical, both of which had influence on the film version.

Ray Bradbury himself wrote the screenplay adaptation of his own work, marking another rare instance in which Stuart Gordon directed a film with no direct influence on the writing.

The cinematography on “The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit” was provided once again by long-time Stuart Gordon collaborator Mac Ahlberg, his second-to-last work with Gordon before his death in 2012.

The story of “The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit” follows five down-on-their-luck men who happen to share the same suit measurements. They are ultimately assembled together for the purpose of buying an impeccable white suit, which they split the cost of and share. The rest of the film follows their developing friendship around the suit, as well as the way the suit affects their lives positively.

icecream3The cast of “The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit” is actually pretty impressive, boasting veterans like Joe Mantegna (who worked again with Gordon on “Edmond”) and Edward James Olmos. Clifton Collins Jr. reunited with Stuart Gordon after appearing in “Fortress,” and joins Esai Morales and Gregory Sierra to round out the central cast. The accessory cast includes cameos by comedy legend Sid Caesar and Howard Morris, as well as character actor Mike Moroff as a heavy.

icecream6Pedro Gonzales Gonzales also makes a quick cameo as a bitter landlord during the film’s first act. Apart from being a prolific actor, is also Clifton Collins Jr.’s grandfather. Collins used to use the name of “Gonzales Gonzales” in his honor. In another bit of trivia, Joe Mantegna starred in one of the stage adaptations of “The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit” prior to the making of the film.

Despite having a Ray Bradbury writing credit and an impressive cast, “The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit” wound up getting buried, only receiving a direct-to-video release and garnering very little attention. That said, it currently holds an 80% critics score and a 75% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes, and has a 6.6 rating on IMDb.

Personally, I think that this movie is absolutely wretched. First off, there is a pretty significant change to the original story’s ending. Normally, I don’t much mind changes to a story in an adaptation. However, in this case, the ending alteration completely changes the meaning of the story. In the original, it is revealed that the central character doesn’t need the suit to succeed, but just lacked the confidence that the suit gave him. It is an uplifting sort of message that dispels the idea that the suit was somehow supernatural, but that it revealed something positive within the men who wore it. In the movie, however, this key revelation is skipped. Instead, the lesson is changed to be about friendship, and how the suit brought the men together. Honestly, you can tell that this wasn’t the intended ending: instead of dismissing their obsessive materialism, the story endorses it, and loses some of its charm along the way.

Perhaps most egregious of the film’s flaws is the fact that it relies heavily on stereotypes to try to drudge up humor. Outside of the racial caricatures, the only other attempts at humor come in the form of loud noises and cartoonish, flailing physical comedy, which gets to be a pretty tired schtick after a while.

icecream2Worse yet, none of the characters manage to develop meaningfully, or even have any characterization at all outside of, at best, one trait. One of them is dirty, one of them is smart, one of them can sing: they might as well be cartoon dwarfs for all of their depth.

A couple of things that I will commend about the film are the theme song, which is alarmingly catchy, and the opening title animation, which is done interestingly colorful with sand art. There are also a few moments throughout the film where street art is integrated into the story, which is also pretty cool to see.

icecream5Probably the thing that bothered me the most about this film was the unfortunate squandering of some real acting talent. Olmos spends most of the film frenetically bouncing around, while Mantegna and the others basically function as “The Three Stooges,” decades displaced in time and using long-expired humor.

icecream4Overall, I just could not stand this film. I am generally not a big fan of family and children’s films, primarily because they tend to debase to the audience. There is a way to do family fare without descending into content that amounts to solely loud noises and flailing arms, and this film does not rise to that challenge. It basically represents everything that is wrong with most family comedies, with an extra side of unappealing racial stereotyping. I mean really: would it have been too difficult to portray Latino characters as something more dignified than live-action cartoons? Or hell, why not actually cast a full cast of Latinos for the movie (looking at you, Italian-American Joe Mantegna)?

There is absolutely no reason to seek out this movie. There isn’t any genuine entertainment value to it outside of Sid Caesar’s quick cameo, and even that isn’t really impressive. I will say that Stuart Gordon deserves some props for trying something outside of his usual film fare, but this was an experiment that just didn’t go quite right. As for Ray Bradbury’s writing, I don’t know what the hell happened here, but this film is absolutely awful.