The so-called "butterfly effect," in which slight changes earlier in a timeline lead to major changes further on, has obvious cinematic potential. In "Sliding Doors," serious developments turned on catching a train, and the movie pursued these in entertaining and thoughtful ways. In "The Butterfly Effect," serious developments turned on an airline's choice of in-flight entertainment. Trapped on a plane, yet without the proverbial gun to my head, I actually watched this film, with the result that two hours of my life are totally blank. I have not a single memory of the film, which is odd for Darth, who is blessed with a prodigious memory for cinema. Not a sequence, not a line, not a frame, not a character. (I think it rained at some point, but that's it.) When I left the plane, all I took with me was an intense hatred for Ashton Kutchner. Well, actually, I had that when I boarded.
I did not realize then what I do now: Forgetfulness is a great mercy. But I fear many deep draughts from the river Lethe would be insufficient to drown my memories of "A Sound of Thunder," a movie so unfathomably bad, so jaw-droppingly awful, that it sparked the "MST3K Effect" in Darth and his movie-going companions. Like the good citizens of the Satellite of Love, we found ourselves talking back to the screen, supplying a running commentary which got a lot more laughs from the audience than any of the bargain basement, generic-action-hero-quips spouted by Edward Burns. (Incidentally, Mr. Burns apparently has a "shirtless clause" in his contract. I can appreciate the desire to show off the results of many hours at the gym, but couldn't some of those hours have been spent pounding the director and the screenwriter into dust?)
I wish I could forget the supine dialogue, cardboard characters, ludicrous plot developements, and awful special effects. (If Chicago in the year 2055 A.D. looks half as phony as it does in this movie, it will be time to dust off the tactical nukes.) Alas, I cannot forget. Do not see this movie. It will scar you for life. I could actually feel myself getting stupider as the film wantonly killed off irreplaceable brain cells in every member of the audience. A jug of grain alcohol could not have flattened my brain waves more effectively. Afterwards in the parking lot, it took me several minutes of hard thinking to remember how to get home.
In a nutshell, the film foretells that in about 50 years the technology for time travel is developed by an improbably comely scientist who, failing to read her contract, did not realize that all her research was owned by the company financing it. (Beautiful women scientists can be such scatterbrains.) Ben Kingsley, the unctuous, greedy, amoral corporate poobah sent over from central casting, snaps up the technology and puts it to the most obvious use imaginable: To provide a dinosaur safari to clients with more money than brains. Of course. What else would you do with a time machine, silly wabbit? The safari team is led by Mr. Burns, who holds a doctorate in squat thrusts and works as a time traveler only so he can raise money to fund his pet project: recovering DNA patterns so that extinct mammals can be cloned. Buff and environmentally active - isn't he just dreamy?! The safari always travels to the same time and place - a Cretaceous-era jungle - for the same fun - slaughtering an Allosaurus, which is expendable because it is about to be killed by a volcanic explosion, plus it is dying of whatever disease makes movie dinosaurs look like the director's check bounced at Industrial Light and Magic. One thing leads to another, the past is changed in an incredibly minute way, and 21st century Chicago winds up as an enormous arboretum populated by clutching, stinging vines and - I kid you not - creatures which are a cross between some type of reptile and the nastiest baboons you've ever seen.
As the cherry on the parfait, all of this takes place under the watchful, corrupt eye of a federal agency created solely to oversee this one company. I guess the Democrats are back in power in 2055.
The movie now becomes - well, ask any four-year-old boy what he would do, and you'll get a pretty clear picture of what happens next. The changes to modern Chicago happen in "waves." Why? Good question. The inventor of time travel explains, "When you change the past, the effects don't happen all at once. They come in waves." Got that? In other words, the changes come in waves because the movie would be 40 minutes long if they didn't. So now a bunch of interchangeable characters line up to die in a race to discover and reverse whatever was done in the past, before the last wave hits Chicago and humanity winds up looking like bipedal bottom feeders. Of course, everyone knows what is and is not going to happen. Ed Burns ain't gonna die - the film would be nowhere without his abs and gluts. And the lithsome scientist ain't gonna die, because she's the only one who understands the technology. Guess who is gonna die? Everyone else.
Logic doesn't just take a holiday in this movie: it downs 30 Xanax and a couple of Long Island iced teas. For instance, fortunately for mankind there is a second time machine in Chicago (I guess it is one town that won't let you down), the one they keep over at the university so that tenured faculty can sexually harass their hot graduate assistants over and over and over. And even more fortunately, the hard drive from the safari company with all the mathematical doo-hickeys and temporal wakka-wakkas fits the university's time machine. This bit of good fortune is on a par with the laptop computer in Independence Day which, at the crucial do-or-die moment, is able to talk to the alien ship and download information vital to the special effects department. My computer won't even let me play Tetris, but I guess all the bugs are finally fixed in "Windows 2054."
However, the grand idiocy of this film, I mean, the gaping, gasping, yawning maw of utter irrationality, involves the eponymous butterfly. [Spoiler!!!] See, there is a butterfly in the film (why can Spielberg make a Tyrannosaurus Rex look real, but these guys produce a butterfly that is barely a cut above a plastic cut-out on a string and a pole?). And this butterfly gets squashed. And a lot of nice lakefront property in Chicago becomes Baboon Central. Fine - but here's the problem. As mentioned earlier, the reason they repeatedly go to this one place and time in history for the dinosaur hunt is because the dinosaur would have been destroyed by a volcano 5 minutes later anyway (in a later scene, when the safari shows up late, we see the explosion, which the team barely escapes). Since the dinosaur will die soon anyway, no harm, no foul. However, unless there were jet-powered butterflies in the late Cretaceous Era, the particular example of Lepidoptera which gets squashed and starts all the trouble would have been destroyed by the volcano blast, along with everything else in a radius of many miles. Why, then, does squashing a butterfly five-minutes early change anything, when killing a dinosaur does not? In the last seconds of its life, does the butterfly initiate some chain of events that outruns a volcano?
Please, if anyone has any theories, let me know.
Intelligent, clever, involving science fiction movies aren't easy to make. Moronic, trite, dull ones aren't easy to forget. Darth's advice: If you want good science fiction, rent the DVD of Blade Runner or Outland. Harrison Ford and Sean Connery may not be as pumped as Ed Burns, but they will have a much better effect on your brain.