10th September 2005: My movie version of A Sound of Thunder

You have read Ray Bradbury’s classic SF short story “A Sound of Thunder” haven’t you? If not, go and read it now.

My movie version is directed by David Mamet.

Thunder. Lightning. Dinosaurs. Special effects go mad in amazing colours. Credits. Devolves into alarm clock ringing and the mountains become the peach suburban sheets of Our Hero’s perfect American suburban bedroom. The Love Interest (Audrey Tatou) is asleep in a black mini-negligee. Our hero (Woody Allen) switches off the alarm clock and rubs his eyes. LI yawns and stretches beautifully. OH reaches for her. They kiss.

LI: Do we have time?

OH: Time? (Looks at alarm clock and leaps out of bed.) No we most certainly do not have time. Today is the day the senate guy is coming to the lab, and Denis is picking me up in less than twenty minutes. (Disappears into the bathroom.)

LI reaches for TV remote and turns on TV in corner.

CNN announcer (Julia Roberts): the Eleventh of September 2001 and you’re listening to CNN. Eight Islamic terrorists have been captured at airports attempting to board flights. Over to Jim. Jim?

(On the bottom of the screen scrolls “Gorre signs Cioto Agreement”)

Jim (Robert de Niro): Yes, it seems these people were armed with box-cutters when they were apprehended, and that they were intending to use these (laughs) “weapons” to take control of the planes and force the pilots to fly them into buildings.

CNN: Have any buildings been mentioned?

Jim: Well, the White House, the Pentagon, and possibly the World Trade Center in New York. Today is the anniversary of the World Trade Center bombing in–

TV clicks off and LI flops back on pillows as OH comes out of bathroom, dressed.

OH: (putting on his jacket) Any news?

LI: Nothing. Well, some Islamic guys with box-cutters tried to hold up a plane but got stopped.

OH: Box-cutters? I can’t see them getting very far.

LI: No… but you know, if they’re so upset that they’d try something like that, maybe we ought to really seriously try to make peace in the Middle East.

OH: They are trying, honey.

LI: (pouts) Look, what time will you be through at the lab? Because I was planning to go shopping so I’ll be uptown, and we could get dinner.

OH: Fantastic! This senate guy is going through into the past with Denis. He wants to shoot a dinosaur. I’ll see them off, see them back — I suppose I’ll be through about four?

LI: Four o’clock then, sweetheart!

OH: (sits down on the edge of the bed.) I love you. I’m so glad we made up after that huge fight we had last year.

LI: It was my fault.

OH: No, it was my fault. I should have trusted you. (Because you know, if you were Woody Allen and you were married to Audrey Tatou, you’d trust her, right? Right?)

LI: Oh darling. (Kiss, interrupted by car horn outside.)

(Cut to interior of car. Macho Hunter (Dennis Quaid) is driving, OH is sitting nervously in the passenger seat.)

OH: But why does he want me to go?

MH: You’re the inventor.

OH: Right, I’m the inventor, you’re the hunter. I stay in the lab, you go back in time. We’re partners. We call that division of labour. (No, “labor”. This is a Hollywood movie.)

MH: Let me spell this outHe’s the senate guy. He controls the money supply. If you want to keep tinkering with your time machine…

OH: (interrupting) Which we both want me to!

MH: (not missing a beat) Which we both want you to, then you have to make nicey nice with him.

(They stop at lights. A man walks by reading USA Today. It has the headline: “Gorre Signs Cioto Treaty”.)

OH: But I don’t know a thing about hunting dinosaurs!

MH: Just stay behind and don’t mess anything up.

OH: But I could! I could mess things up. If I did anything wrong, if I changed any tiny thing back there in the past it could have incalculable effects in the future. If I were to bend the wrong blade of grass, that grass wouldn’t be there for a grazer who came along and there might not be any mammals today.

MH: (as the car surges forward) Look, we’ve been all through this a million times. The dino he’s going to shoot will die anyway five minutes later. We won’t step off the path, and the path is a lava trail, nothing to hurt. We always scope out where we’re going really carefully, before we go, and this time we’ve been over it and over it. What difference will it make if you’re there? Besides, this guff about changing everything is only a theory. You have no evidence at all.

OH: The whole time travel thing was only a theory until I built my machine, Denis.

MH: You’re afraid to go back in time yourself, that’s what it is. (Parks car and gets out at generic lab building.)

OH: (getting out of car) Even if I am, even if I am, that doesn’t mean I’m not right.

MH: Look, if the senate guy says frog, you hop. Without this funding, there is no project.

OH: We could get funding direct from President Gorre!

MH: Yeah, right.

(Cut to inside lab. There is a time machine here. There is also a TV. The TV is on.)

CNN (on TV): Allege that this nonsense about holding up planes with box-cutters is a distraction from the fact that you signed the Cioto agreement.

President Gorre (Robert Redford): I did sign the Cioto Treaty and I did give more money for rebuilding the levees in New Orleans, and I’m not ashamed of it or trying to distract from it, I’m proud.

MH: Turn that crap off, the senate guy is here. Hello sir!

Senate Guy (Christopher Walken at his most creepy): So this is where it all goes on!

(You’ve read the short story. You’ve seen movies. You can fill in the rest for yourself, once you know that the happy ending comes right at the beginning.)

Posted in Books, Whimsy