THE BUTTERFLY EFFECT
Review by Gordon Justesen
Ashton Kutcher, Amy Smart, Eric Stoltz, William Lee Scott, Elden Henson, Logan
Lerman, Ethan Suplee, Melora Walters
Directors: J. Mackye Gruber, Eric Bress
Audio: Dolby Digital EX 5.1, Dolby Surround, Spanish Dolby Surround
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio: New Line Cinema
Features: See Review
Length: 120 Minutes (Directorís Cut), 114 Minutes (Theatrical Version)
Release Date: July 6, 2004
canít change who people are without destroying who they were.
CANíT PLAY GOD, SON!Ē
This is probably
the best example yet of a movie exceeding my expectations when my expectations
certainly were not high to begin with. When I first caught the trailer for The
Butterfly Effect, I wasnít left with too big of an impression. It didnít
look like the kind of movie Iíd want to rush out and see. If I did end up
seeing it, it would probably be through a rental, if I couldnít find anything
But then something
funny happened; everyone I knew who saw it had nothing but amazing things to say
about it. I was told that the trailers and ads didnít even do the movie
justice. I recount one friend of mine telling me specifically that if I added up
just about every movie I saw that dealt with the issue of time traveling (Back
to the Future, Frequency, etc.) this movie would still knock my socks off.
Itís funny how a
strong word of mouth can persuade one to see something for themselves. I ended
up seeing the movie way into its theatrical run, and was amazed by how blown
away I was by its every element. Everything from the plot scenario, to the
ultra-dark feel, all the way by a surprisingly stunning performance from a guy
known for his comic, and punking,
talents. I walked out of the theater only wishing that I had seen The
Butterfly Effect much sooner than I did.
A good way to
describe the movie is a hugely clever Twilight
Zone episode, only extended to two hours and probably loaded with more
chills and thrills. The story surrounds a young, troubled soul named Evan
Trebhorn, played by Ashton Kutcher in an outstanding departure from his usual
comedic fare. It may seem like a trend for a comedic actor to branch off into a
single, more serious role, but Mr. Kutcherís work here is rock solid and
astonishing. In other words, if you thought he possessed limited range, you have
just been Punkíd.
The story actually
begins in Evanís preteen years, where during a series of traumatic events
which I will not go into detail of, he experiences blackouts. Extraordinarily
bewildered by the chain of events, and frightening his own mother on one
occasion, Evan is soon subjected to treatment. After conducting several tests,
the shrink suggests an eccentric strategy; that Evan keeps a journal of the
crucial events prior to which he experienced a blackout.
Cut to several
years later, where Evan (now played by Kutcher), is attending college and is
more than pleased to discover that he hasnít had a single blackout in several
months. That is, until he unintentionally begins reading into a journal entry.
Itís not exactly what he reads that triggers much significance, but what
happens to Evan as he reads each word describing an event in the past.
Without giving away
too much plot detail, it turns out that Evan has the ability to travel back in
time when reading specific documents detailing his blackouts. While confronting
a number of horrific incidents during his childhood, which changed the course of
not only his life but that of three close friends of his, Evan tries to make the
wrong things right. By taking charge of himself in the past and having the power
to alter any specific event at any point in his life, he then wakes up to find
some drastic changes in the present. While some results may appear happy, each
alteration he makes results in a tragic error in some way, shape or form.
biggest concern is the fate of childhood friend Kayleigh Miller (Amy Smart). As
a result of being raised by a more than abusive father, and Evan and his mother
eventually moving away from town years ago, Evan confronts her at the present.
Strangely enough, an unthinkable tragedy comes as a result from this moment, and
is the very thing that triggers Evanís need for going back in time to make
everything right, at least, for the moment.
And thatís as far
as Iíll go with story revelation.
In addition to the
strength of the cast, a huge level of applause must go way of filmmakers J.
Mackye Gruber and Eric Bress, who share writing and directing credit. Gruber and
Bress, who also wrote the screenplay for the grisly but fun Final
Destination 2, really seem to know the genre theyíve invested in. The
strength of this film, in my honest opinion, will lead to many chilling films of
this type. I can easily see them working along the path like that of M. Night
Just believe me
when I say that The Butterfly Effect
moves like a roaring machine at a relentless pace, which is a good thing. Itís
an entirely moody piece that, while definitely not for the faint of heart, is
certain to become a film cherished by fans of sci-fi and supernatural thrillers.
Like all movies dealing with the altering of time and events, it will require a
huge suspension of disbelief, which in science fiction is a pure given about
99.9 percent of the time.
If you think
youíve seen all there is to see in the realm of time travel, I highly
recommend to you The Butterfly Effect to
hopefully prove you otherwise. This is a superbly crafted, razor sharp mix of
sci-fi and supernatural thriller. Prepare to be thrust into a whirlwind paradox
ride of a movie, with many startling surprises in store.
BONUS NOTE: The
Directorís Cut, in addition to having a few more minutes, includes a much more
startling ending than the theatrical version. Personally, I prefer the ending
used in the original movie, though the alternate is more daring in a sense.
If thereís one
studio who knows no limits when applied to DVD, itís New Line without
question. In addition to providing a marvelously stunning anamorphic
presentation, they were wise enough to include only
the anamorphic widescreen version of the movie. As for the transfer itself,
nothing short of first rate quality, as only New Line can deliver. The movie
offers an equal dose of light and dark sequences. Colors are especially worth
noting, since they play a big role in the visualization of the time altering
sequences. An all around striking use of dynamic detail. It adds up to one of
the best looking discs Iíve seen all year.
Dolby EX always
offers an added boom to the mix, and the 5.1 mix supplied to this disc does an
outstanding job of working just about every aspect of a good sound system.
Evanís time traveling incidents alone are worth the four star rating. There is
also a great deal of individual suspense-filled moments, accompanied by a well
matched music score. Dialogue is clear as a bell, and the dynamic range is as
ultimately and thoroughly present as ever. As with the video job, this is
certainly one of the most stellar sounding discs of the year, thus far.
New Line makes a
standout return to their prestigious Infinifilm format for this release. In
other words, the extras are a plentiful.
For starters, in
the All Access Pass area, thereís a commentary track by writer/directors J.
Mackye Gruber and Eric Bress, which is extremely informative especially when
noting the several changes between the directorís cut and the original version
of the film. In addition, there are two behind the scenes documentaries; one on
the creative process and the other on visual effects, storyboard galleries, and
Also, in the Beyond
the Movie area, there are two intriguing documentaries; ďThe Science and
Psychology of the Chaos TheoryĒ and ďThe History and Allure of Time
TravelĒ, along with the always engaging Infinifilm fact track.