Warner Bros. // 2004 // 119 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Paul Pritchard (Retired) // August 1st, 2012
"If I was so wonderful, why didn't you call me? Why did you just leave me here to rot?"
"It has been said something as small as the flutter of a butterfly's wing can ultimately cause a typhoon halfway around the world." -- Chaos Theory
When Evan Treborn (Ashton Kutcher, No Strings Attached) begins to relive painful childhood memories, he discovers he is able to travel back in time and alter key events from his past. Aware that his father was sent to a mental institution for claiming to possess similar abilities, Evan keeps his time traveling secret. However, when Evan tracks down his childhood sweetheart Kayleigh (Amy Smart, Road Trip), and sees how her troubled childhood has left her an emotional wreck, he vows to give her the life she deserves by using his newfound abilities. Despite his good intentions, Evan comes to realize the folly of messing with the past, as each change he makes causes disastrous consequences for everyone's future. The Butterfly Effect (Blu-ray) Director's Cut gives the movie an upgrade.
There's a sweet center to The Butterfly Effect that is both unexpected and the main reason it works so well. The concept of time travel -- specifically the ramifications of changing the past -- has been done before, most famously in the Ray Bradbury's story A Sound of Thunder, and even on The Simpsons. What makes The Butterfly Effect stand out is how the sci-fi elements take a backseat to the story of a young man determined give the woman he loves a better life, whether that be with or without him by her side.
Ashton Kutcher takes a lot of stick, particularly with regard to his acting, but here he delivers a solid turn. It's vital to the film's success that the viewer can relate to Evan, and to Kutcher's credit he ensures the character is a likeable hero. The star of the movie, however, is undoubtedly Amy Smart, who plays Evan's love, Kayleigh. The film really is all about Kayleigh, and as played by Smart she is a fragile young woman who has suffered terrible hardships. Smart infuses Kayleigh with an innocence that makes Evan's attempts to save her wholly understandable, and there are moments where her plight is deeply affecting.
The structure of the film is also interesting, as the time travel elements that come in during the second act explain some of the odd occurrences of the opening act that, initially at least, lend the film's opening a disjointed feel. It's a brave move, but one that pays off handsomely. Writer-directors J. Mackye Gruber and Eric Bress throw in plenty of surprises along the way, and frequently tackle dark subject matters. This all helps build a sense of doom that hangs over Evan's desperate attempts to save Kayleigh. At 119 minutes, the Director's Cut comes close to repetition during the final act, as the novelty of Evans' increasingly common time travel episodes starts to wear off, but -- seemingly aware of this -- Gruber and Bress throw in one final shocker. The Director's Cut of The Butterfly Effect features a vastly different ending to the theatrical cut that, for me, is not only the superior ending, but surprisingly affecting as well, no matter how many times I've seen it. It is, however, understandable why this ending was dropped for the theatrical release as -- not wanting to give too much away -- it could prove upsetting for some.
The Blu-ray release of The Butterfly Effect sports a 1.85:1/1080p transfer that offers a significant upgrade over the previous DVD release. The picture is sharp, with deep blacks and especially strong colors. The level of detail also shows a marked improvement over the DVD. The DTS-HD Master Audio 6.1 soundtrack is absolutely fantastic. Dialogue is crisp, as is the score. What really stands out are the sequences where Evan travels through time. The entire sound system is utilized to envelop the viewer in a wall of sound that is sure to wake the neighbors.
The extras on the Blu-ray release are all carried over from the previous DVD version. Both the theatrical and director's cut of the film are available, and selectable from the main menu. Two short featurettes kick off the extras, with "The Science and Psychology of the Chaos Theory" and "The History and Allure of Time Travel" really only providing a very brief summary of Chaos Theory and time travel. A "Director's Cut Fact Track" is included, along with a commentary track courtesy of directors Bress and Gruber; this is only available for the Director's Cut of the film. "The Creative Process" sees the writer-directors discuss how their idea came to fruition, while "Visual Effects" looks at the film's effects work. Finally there is a storyboard gallery and a selection of deleted and alternate scenes.
Perhaps due to its leading man, I expected very little from The Butterfly Effect upon its release back in 2004, and so it surprised me just how much it drew me in. Despite having seen the film several times since, and never being quite sure whether I should consider the movie a guilty pleasure or not, The Butterfly Effect has lost none of its ability to entertain, disturb, and touch.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
* 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 6.1 Master Audio (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 119 Minutes
Release Year: 2004
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Theatrical Cut
* Deleted/Alternate Scenes