Retro Review: The Butterfly Effect

We have all enjoyed those great to mediocre movies about time-travelers who are plagued by one solitary moment that has sent them on a useless plight to undue that wrong.

This struggle and connection is something we all wish we could have a crack it in hopes of helping ourselves find a better stream. What would you love to fix?

In the late 1800s, H.G. Wells brought about the birth of this dream when he wrote the legendary novel “The Time Machine”.

We have seen that vision produce two films and countless knock-offs. Now Hollywood once more goes back to the Wells’ well for one more desperate plight.

A troubled and tortured boy, Evan Treborn, struggles as he begins to realize that portions of memories are being purposely blocked out of his mind. When the boy comes face to face with some of his childhood fears and before the complete story is unraveled the boy wakes up missing them.

Later when he is an adult, Evan (Ashton Kutcher) is desperate to uncover why his memories were being blocked. He uses his childhood journal as a starting place as he tries desperately to unravel his mystery. Before he can stop it he finds himself being thrust into the past where he re-enters his body as a child and is able to change events that could help his childhood friends, Kayleigh (Amy Smart), Lenny (Elden Henson) and Tommy (William Lee Scott). Evan hopes to make a better future for them all as he opens the blocked memories within his own mind.

“The Butterfly Effect” isn’t your typical “time-travel” film but it plays along the same principal as films before it and once more has a desperate hero much like Wells’ own “time-traveler”. “Effect” is interesting in the way it makes the journey so simple for the main character. He squints his eyes and reads his childhood journal and poof he’s in the past. I like that it’s simple and that we the audience believe he can do it because of the film’s brilliant opening.

It is brilliant because we learn about Evan as a child and we begin to see his desperation and plight from an early age. I liked watching the child version of the character and how the filmmakers made his childhood so believable. This was by far the best part of the film.

When we finally get to Kutcher as Evan we have feeling for the character but still aren’t sure how he will make his jump into the past. As the film circles and builds around the character’s mystery it deepens and could have been a brilliant film. And then it just doesn’t.

The parts I had a lot of problems with were the specific events Evan was returning to. They were so traumatic and disturbing for the both Evan and the viewer. As the film builds, each event is more traumatic than the next. It really got hard to digest.

Then there is the problem that Kutcher seeming to have a “Keanu Reeves” reaction every time he returns from those events. Something like, “whoa it’s changed”. He is never fully traumatized or changed. That bugged me.

There were also lots of problems with the internal logic of the film. As the film progresses, we learn that Evan can only transport back to certain events within the pages of his journal. But as the film progresses these events are traveled to out of linear-sequence. Which begs the question shouldn’t some of the events he changed earlier effect the events in the time he is now visiting. It really is a head scratcher.

Placing the disturbing scenes aside, for once I would have liked to see him enjoy his time in the past so we as an audience can see what he is so desperate to relive.

“The Butterfly Effect” is an interesting entry in the “time-travel” genre but it’s far to dark, desperate and disturbing to be a success.

(2.5 out of 5)

So Says the Soothsayer.

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