The Butterfly Effect

The Butterfly Effect (2004)
New Line Home Entertainment
Cast: Ashton Kutcher, Amy Smart, Eric Stoltz
Extras: Commentary Track, Deleted Scenes, Featurettes, Storyboards, Trailers

I’ve always been a sucker for the time-paradox. If there’s a decent story about time-traveling and the effects it can have on the present and future, I’m more than certain read or watch it. As such, New Line’s "The Butterfly Effect" was a very welcome movie, especially since it seemed to truly explore the paradox-side of things, as opposed to the time-traveling aspects.

As a child, Evan is constantly afflicted by black-outs – stretches of time of variable length that he cannot recall anything about. It is a trait that seems to have been handed down to him by his father, who had the same symptoms and has eventually been declared insane.

As he grows up with his mother, Evan is trying to cope with the black-outs and one way to deal with it is by keeping diaries of the things he can remember. Many years later, as he’s grown up, he realizes that by reading his old diaries, Evan (Ashton Kutcher) is realizing that he can now unlock these black-outs. Even more than that. He can actually travel back in time to the very moment of the black-out for the duration of it.

What he also realizes is that most of these black-outs are suppressed emotions as he went through some traumatic events. Immediately he tries to change these events and by doing so, alters the course of time and ends up in a different present time once the time-travel is over. But every time, Evan tries to make things right, the side-effects from his interference seem to create even bigger problems, putting him into a frenzy and on the brink of insanity as he is desperately trying to find the solution to put everything in order.

"The Butterfly Effect" is filled with plot twists and unexpected turns. The writers have truly spun their wheels to come up with ideas that are unexpected and yet absolutely believable to create a series of present-time scenarios that vary wildly from each other. As such, "The Butterfly Effect" is a roller-coaster ride from beginning to end as we feverishly hope that Evan will be able to put an end to his nightmares.

I was wondering if Ashton Kutcher would be able to play such a serious part, as I always associate him with his 70’s Show character Kelso. But I have to admit that he does it with bravado. There is not a single moment that reminds you of the goofball he played so many times before. His play is centered, serious and full of dramatic turns to bring to life the different incarnations of himself, though it does seem to lack a bit of depth here and there.

New Line Home Entertainment has prepared an infinifilm DVD release for this film and presents both the Director’s Cut and the Theatrical Cut of the movie on the same disc. The image quality is marvelous, creating a highly detail presentation that is without any blemish or mar. Colors are vibrant and rich without over-saturation and the film’s black level are solid, creating deep shadows that never break up. The transfer boasts an incredible level of definition – so good in fact that some of the cheaper special effects become a bit more evident than they should.
Not a hint of edge-enhancement is visible and the compression is without any flaws.

The DVD contains a <$DD,Dolby Digital> 5.1 EX audio track that is making good use of the split surrounds, as well as the additional rear-center. There are moments where the audio is washing over the viewer from all directions, creating an incredibly aggressive sound field. Dialogues are well integrated, though occasionally the music and sound effects are a tad over-mixed, unbalancing the track slightly.

A <$commentary,commentary track> with writers/directors Eric Bress and J. Mackye Gruber is also included on the release, giving them the chance to talk a bit more about their ambitions. The two are fairly new filmmakers and the track oftentimes conveys that in their points of view and their somewhat unconventional methods of achieving their goals. It is interesting and exciting and contains a lot of additional food for brain as they explore many of the difficulties associated with the story’s subject matter.

Also included is a selection of deleted scenes and infinifilm featurettes. Since these featurettes are used to branch out into during the viewing of the movie to cover various aspects of the film, they appear a bit disjointed when watched by themselves, but as an infinifilm experience they certainly manage to cover a lot of additional ground. Covering issues such as the Chaos theory, the subject of time travel in fiction, the creative process of making the movie and the visual effects, the featurettes cover a lot of varied aspects and certainly add some valuable information to the release.

Storyboards and trailers round out the release.

"The Butterfly Effect" is a wicked thrill-ride that takes a lot more chances than your average Hollywood movie. As a result it turned out to be a somewhat gritty film, frantically paced at times that jolts the viewer around mercilessly, perfectly underscoring the increasing frenzy of the actual story. A lot of great ideas went into this film and even the ending is not necessarily what you’d expect from a Hollywood movie. "The Butterfly Effect" is a trip for the senses, so make sure you get in on it as soon as you can.