Sunday, February 12, 2017

The Butterfly Effect (2004)

Note:  This review was originally posted to my Epinions account.

At some point, everyone looks back at some event in their life and wonders how things would have been different if they have fixed a few mistakes. What if you could not buy a car that turned out to be a lemon? What if you hadn’t fumbled when asking someone out on a date? What would it have been like if you hadn’t botched a job interview? The Butterfly Effect is one of those movies that deals with that question.

The name of the movie comes from Chaos Theory, which states that the flapping of the wings of a butterfly in one part of the world could create a monsoon on the other side of the planet. Evan gets the chance to see how true that is. He’s the main character, played in part by Ashton Kutcher. It starts out with him trying to outrun several men, but doesn’t give any hint as to what’s going on. The movie then shifts back thirteen years to when Evan was a child.

Evan suffers from unexplainable blackouts. Tests reveal nothing wrong with his brain; the doctor suggests that they’re brought on by stress. He also suggests keeping a journal, which Evan does. Part of the stress may have something to do with the fact that Evan has never seen his father, so Evan’s mother arranges a meeting. (Evan’s father has been in a mental institution all of Evan’s life.)

Six years later, Evan still suffers from the blackouts. One occurs when a prank goes horribly awry, forcing Evan and his mother to move away, leaving several friends. This is the last time that Evan has a blackout until college. Evan reads one of his journals about the prank and has a flashback instead of a blackout. He goes back to the time of the prank, but drops a cigarette that he’s smoking. He burns his stomach when it drops on his shirt; the scar remains when the flashback is over. This is how Evan realizes that he can travel back in time and change things.

Evan contacts Kayleigh, one of his childhood friends. She had a rough time and is working in a diner having to put up with obnoxious customers. Bringing back old memories prompts her to commit suicide. Her brother, Tommy, calls and threatens to kill Evan. (Tommy was one of the other childhood friends. Lenny was the third.) Evan manages to go back and fix things so that things work out better for Kayleigh.

The thing is that when he fixes one thing, things get worse for others. For instance, when Evan stops Kayleigh’s pedophile father from molesting her, Tommy gets the brunt of his frustration, causing him to be more messed up than before. Evan eventually realizes that it’s hard to make things great for everyone.

I don’t want to ruin the entire movie for you. Besides, it would probably take me several more paragraphs to reveal everything in detail. I have to warn you that this is a very disturbing movie. I’m about to reveal a few more details just to let you know how disturbing the movie is. If you can’t handle these details, you probably shouldn’t see the movie. If you can’t handle anything disturbing, you should probably just skip this paragraph. One flashback involves a dog being burned alive. Another involves Evan’s father strangling Evan. The only reason that I’m mentioning these scenes is that these might be make-or-break aspects for some people.

I found that the setup was longer than usual, but this was a good thing. I think if the writers had rushed to the point where Evan started going back in time, it would have taken away from the movie. During the setup, we got to see the four friends at different stages. I felt like the three people that played Evan were the most consistent. However, the other three transitions weren’t that bad.

One thing that I’ve noticed is that Callum Keith Rennie seems to be getting a lot of ‘freak’ roles. (Callum Keith Rennie played Jason, Evan’s father.) If you’ve ever seen The Sci-Fi Channel’s rendition of Battlestar Gallactica, you’ll know what I mean.

I’d give this movie four stars. I saw the director’s cut. Judging by the running time, I believe that this is the proper version of the movie to post this review under. However, I’ve heard that the difference is in the ending, which I haven’t covered here. As you might have guessed, this is not a movie for children. This is a movie that a lot of adults might not like. While I was watching the movie, it reminded me a lot of the director’s cut of Donnie Darko. There’s that same dark aspect to the movie that a lot of people might not like. 

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