REVIEW: The Butterfly Effect
I wasn’t really sure what to expect from “The Butterfly Effect”, I’d read enough to know I liked the concepts that were being explored in the movie, but I was a little concerned about the casting of the film as I’ve not been a fan at all of Ashton Kutcher’s work (with the exception of “That 70’s Show” and wasn’t sure what to expect from him in a serious role.
If there is one word to describe the movie it’s “surprising” – If there are other words to describe it then… I’ll probably use them over the course of the rest of the review.
The theory of “the butterfly effect” is basically at the core of all good story telling. The term was coined by the chaos theory scientist, Edward Lorenz, who describe it to a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences in 1972. He was using a derivative of a quote by an unnamed meteorologist, who had originally said that if chaos theory were true, a single flap of a single seagull’s wings would be enough to change the course of all future weather systems on the earth. Lorenz refined the notion and his talk was delivered under the title of “Predictability: Does the Flap of a Butterfly’s Wings in Brazil set off a Tornado in Texas?”.
Cause and Effect play a part in all stories.. They must or else the story would be damn boring! However the principal of the butterfly effect has been explored on television (st:tng “tapestry”) and in movies like ‘Back to the Future” in a retrospective way. What if we could change the Past? How would those changes effect the future?
“The Butterfly effect” is “Back to the Future” without the comedy, without the time machine, without the crazy Doc Brown and without Huey Lewis. But whatever you do – don’t let the casting of this film trick you into thinking that this movie is anything of a “Dude, where’s my DeLorian”. Because that is certainly far from the case.
From the Very outset of the film you are thrown into a kind of pace that belongs more in a pepsi commercial, however as the film begins to reveal itself you soon realize that there is a good reason for this pace. There’s a certain amount of tension to be gained by slowing a movie down and drawing the viewer to the edge of their seat in anticipation of the next plot goal – “The Butterfly Effect” (TBE) doesn’t have that luxury. It has to do an epic job before it even begins to let you witness the events that will ultimately play havoc with the life of Evan Treborn (Kutcher).. And that is, it has to tell you his life!
There’s an inherent danger in movies that deal with Time Travel, they run the risk of having to cover the same ground again and again and that can get pretty tedious for the viewer. The directors of TBE, Eric Bress (Final Destination 2) and J. Mackye Gruber (who also has a writing credit on this film and Final Destination 2) handle this well, so when the time comes for Evan (and the viewer) to witness events from Evan’s past they are revealed to Evan in such a way that you are in no way bored by the premise of returning to his childhood. In many cases I found that I was quite keen to learn what had actually happened.
As a child Evan suffers from blackouts, surmised that they are stress related this gives us a key to Evan’s abilities, many of these events are stressful because they are pivotal events in his life, and in the lives of the people around him. It’s the ability that Evan develops which allows him to return to those points in his life and take the opportunity to make changes…. this is where the whole notion of “The Butterfly Effect” comes in to play. By making changes Evan effects more than he can imagine – often with horrific results for himself and the people who he is trying to protect.
I liked the look of this film, the camera is used as an appendage to the character in many ways. Much of it has a hand held feel that puts you in the scene. Subtle color washes set the mood as certain points in the movie, often there are many subtle techniques like this used to create the mood quickly: camera, color and music working together to get the feeling across as quickly as possible, so that the movie can keep up it’s pace and yet still give the viewer a sense of where Evan is at emotionally.
Evan’s emotional state IS a big part of the story. At one point we see the pressure of moving from one version of his life to another catch up with him – and again, the results are devastating. Gruber and Bress do a great job of making you aware of just how awful Evan’s life will be if he cannot change it once again.. but, by this stage we (and Evan) are becoming aware of greater effects that every little change can have.
I can’t stress enough how surprised I was by Ashton Kutcher’s performance – Academy award in it for him? No, I don’t think so. But he has certainly changed my opinion of him as an actor and I’ll give him a lot more credit than I had in the past – Now, those rumors that he’s been putting his hand up to play the man of steel in the next Superman movie don’t scare me quite as much as they did.
It would also be very easy to over look the “love interest” in the film, Amy Smart – she is beautiful and endearing. She slips between the roles seamlessly as the Evan character’s meddling in the past changes her character’s life so dramatically – she is as believable as a drugged out whore as she is as a sweet sorority girl.
Despite myself, I really enjoyed this film and will probably add it to my DVD collection when it becomes available, however at this point I doubt very much that you’ll feel as though you’ve been punked if you pay your $14 to see it at the cinema!