Butterfly Effect (The)
R4 - Australia - Warner Home Video
Review written by and copyright: Noor Razzak (27th August 2004).
The Film

From concept to completion The Butterfly Effect was a project that took a very long time to get off the ground. Writers Eric Bress and J. Mackye Gruber had developed the script years ago in the hope that eventually they would get financing, and whomever picked it up would remain true to their vision for the story. The tone of the film is rather dark so there are a few controversial aspects in the script that could easily be aborted by a major studio or handled in way detrimental to the overall tone of the story. So the two sat on it, refusing to sell it unless they got the chance to direct it. In the mean time the two wrote the successful Final Destination 2 it was here that New Line stood up and took notice and finally financed The Butterfly Effect and allowed the two to direct it.
The story revolves around Evan played by That 70's Show star Ashton Kutcher, since childhood Evan has been plagued by blackouts, not knowing or understanding the source. Centred around those blackouts are disturbing events that have come to define his adult life. His mother (Melora Walters) believes that something is clinically wrong with her son, and after some tests no abnormality was found, so in order to connect the broken lines of memory caused by the blackouts she seeks hypnosis, again not producing any results. The only solution is for Evan to record his days in a journal in the hope that something he writes will trigger the lost memories. But when a devastating event occurs involving a M-100 stick of dynamite, it forces him to move away from neighbourhood and friends including the girl he loves Kayley (Amy Smart), vowing that he?ll be back for her. Seven years later Evan is at University and has been free of blackouts, But when he discovers his journals from youth the blackouts return, this time his brain feeds him images from his lost memories. This causes Evan to travel back to his old neighbourhood to find out what actually happened the day he and his friends ventured out with that M-100. Reuniting with Kayley dredges up bad memories that lead to her eventual suicide. Devastated by this, Evan eventually discovers that he can travel back in time with the use of his journal entries that act as a link to his old memories transporting him back to those exact moments. Thinking that if he goes back to critical moments in their lives altering one small thing will change the course of history and therefore brining his one true love Kayley back from the dead. But the small changes he makes end up having unexpected and often disastrous consequences, each time things don?t go his way Evan goes back and continues to change things in the past, eventually the consequences get worse and worse throughout the course of the story.
I have to be honest I never bothered seeing this film during its original theatrical run, the reason was largely Ashton Kutcher. Don't get me wrong I don't dislike the guy, but I couldn't imagine him tackling a dramatic role, after all the only reference I had for gauging what kind of actor he is was from That 70's Show and the awful Dude, Where's My Car, so I put the film off. Having had the opportunity to review this disc I was somewhat sceptical whether Kutcher would be able to pull it off and I was pleasantly surprised. Before I get into the performances I'd like to touch on the film first. Not having seen the original Theatrical Cut of the film I can't really compare, but from what I saw in this Director's Cut I was impressed. What got me first was the way the two writer/directors structured the film. It was focused on Evan's perspective and whenever he blacked out we as the viewer and just like the chacacter would also not know what happened only to find out later in the film what actually happened during those disturbing childhood moments in his life. Additionally the story itself was a unique look at time travel, which has chaotic undertones intertwined throughout the narrative, the name of the film The Butterfly Effect is a chaos theory effect, this theory suggests something as small as a the flutter of a butterfly's wing can ultimately cause a typhoon half way around the world. In psychological terms this refers to a seemingly insignificant event that causes a chain of events over time that create unpredictable outcomes. Like most films that deal with time travel it poses the question, that is if you had the chance to go back in time would you change anything? But this film goes beyond that challenging you with the notion that whatever the outcome of that change would you be prepared to face the consequences of your actions? In most cases those consequences are dramatic. The two filmmakers do paint a strong picture that will certainly intrigue most viewers.
Strong storytelling and strong performances also tend to go hand in hand, I'm happy to say that Kutcher's performance is one highlight. Kutcher not only demonstrates a mature acting sensibility but is also able to hold is own. This finely crafted performance does come as a shock from the man that brought to the world Michael Kelso. Additionally Amy Smart is also able to hold her own proving that she does have some dramatic chops as well, one of the more difficult parts to play would be that of Kayley, whose character seems to change drastically as Evan alters the future so here we see Smart play a small town waitress, a preppy college student and a prostitute all with intense precision. It's unfortunate that these performances are marred by a less than adequate support cast that mainly include the younger cast members playing Evan and Kayley and their friends as children. Most of their performances felt forced and often wooden, you can probably attribute this to lack of experience, it was obvious that this younger cast was chosen solely on the fact that they looked like the leads (Kutcher, Smart, et al) rather than on acting ability.
Technically the film shines, the cinematography is masterfully executed with a distinct look for the past and present also the special effects, primarily the time travel sequences are fantastic to watch.
Eric Bress and J. Mackye Gruber have made a very intriguing often challenging and visually stunning film, this film is definatly recommended.

Video

Presented in its original theatrical ratio of 1.85:1 this anamorphically enhanced widescreen transfer is excellent. Image detail is consistently sharp, colours are well rendered and vivid, most notably blacks are bold and prominent and shadow detail is impeccable. What impressed me was that throughout the course from the scenes where the characters are kids, to adulthood and the time travel and the fast-forward memory rebuilding effects all have a distinct look and that was never compromised with this transfer. What we have here is an accurate representation of this film.

Audio

This DVD includes two audio formats, an English Dolby Digital 5.1 surround track and an English Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo track. For the purposes of this review I chose to view the film with its 5.1 track. This is a dynamic surround track that does pack a punch, while most of the heavy surround activity is utilized during the time-travel sequences the rest of the track is never quite. The surround activity is well placed demonstrating precise separation, atmospheric surrounds are ever present without posing an annoyance, dialogue is always clear and the score is rendered beautifully. Although this track is generally quite good I couldn't think why the stunning DTS ES 6.1 surround track seen on the Region 1 release was dropped on this version, this in my opinion is the only thing that could have improved on the already decent surround track.
This DVD also included subtitles in English for the hearing impaired.

Extras

The first extra is a feature-length audio commentary by writer/directors Eric Bress and J. Mackye Gruber. This is an excellent commentary track which delves into the different stages the script evolved through, the casting process, the differences between the theatrical version and the director's cut primarily focusing on the darker ending and their thoughts on why they believe it's a better ending. These two certainly know how to host a commentary, there is not a single dull moment here this is an informative and highly entertaining track to listen to.

Following the commentary is a text trivia track, this subtitle track pops information on your screen throughout the film. Here we get extensive notes relating to the production of the film and the story.

The first of the four featurettes is entitled "The Creative Process". This 17 minute 49 second featurette is your standard EPK style featurette and covers all the basics of film production from the story and screenplay concept to filming. Additionally Eric Bress and J. Mackye Gruber discuss how they met and started working with each other. This featurette includes interviews with key cast and crewmembers and is edited together with behind-the-scenes footage, clips from the film and photos taken on the set. Over provides a good general understanding of how the film came about.

The next featurette entitled "Behind the Visual Effects" runs for 16 minutes and 05 seconds and covers the visual effects process. We learn that initially this film had no special effects, but when it became a studio picture and the budget allowed it the filmmakers brought special effects supervisor Ralph Maiers to come up with new and interesting visuals for the time travel sequences and also to create challenging effects shots such as the shot that reveals Evan with no arms without the use of motion capture, which was beyond the filmmakers budget. This is an interesting piece that reveals some of the tricks the filmmakers employed to get the effects in the final product.

The next featurette entitled "The Science and Psychology of the Chaos Theory" which runs for 8 minutes 58 seconds is an explanation of what Chaos Theory is exactly, more so it's a look at Chaos Theory's role in psychology which is known as the Butterfly Effect, a seemingly insignificant event that causes a chain of events in time that create unpredictable outcomes. This is an informative featurette that includes interviews with scholars of Chaos Theory.

The final featurette and possibly the best on the DVD is "The History of Allure and Time Travel" running at 13 minutes 23 seconds this featurette focuses on the appeal and popularity of time travel films and stories. How we as humans have a natural curiosity of the 'what if' factor and the fantasy revolving around if we can actually change things in our lives by going back or forward in time. Additionally the interviewees also discuss some of the most popular films that deal with time travel.

Next up is a series of deleted scenes that also include two alternate endings. These scenes can be viewed with an optional audio commentary by writer/directors Eric Bress and J Mackye Gruber. In their commentary the two discuss the reasons why these scenes where cut from the film. These scenes play one after the other with a "play all" function and cannot be individually selected, these scenes include:

- 'Scene 11: Where's my Puffer?' this is a deleted scene where the group are kids and Evan helps Lenny feel better after his drawing is torn down from the wall.
- 'Scene 32: Kids Discuss Art' this deleted scene takes place before the M-100 incident, the kids talk about how mass destruction is an art form.
- 'Scene 4: The Mute in the Yellow Hat' Evan and Kayley welcome Lenny home after the M-100 incident left him traumatised.
- 'Scene 55: Once Bitten, Twice Catatonic' In this scene Lenny is carted off in an ambulance after the M-100 incident, his mother calls Evan a monster.
- 'Scene 71: Get my Memories Back' This deleted scene takes place when Evan is in University, he dredges up his old journals and tells his roomate that if he reads the entries he might be able to remember the events in his childhood where he blacked out.
- 'Scene 112: Original 'You've Been Acting Weird Evan'' this is an alternate version of the scene where Evan walks Kayley home after discovering that his car was smashed up right outside the frat house.
- 'Scene 41: Noon Day Stalker' a deleted scene that shows a news highlight talking about a stalker that steals bras and panties from people's homes.
- 'Alternate Ending: Stalker Ending' In this alternate ending Evan and Kayley pass each other in the street not knowing each other, but a slight connection is made. Kayley continues to walk but Evan turns around and follows.
- 'Alternate Ending: Happy Sappy Ending' Similar to the previous ending but instead of Kayley continuing to walk away they stop and talk to each other, Evan knows who she is but Kayley is meeting Evan for the first time.

The last and final extra on this disc is the inclusion of the theatrical trailer.

Overall

The Film: B+ Video: A Audio: A Extras: A Overall: A

 


DVD Compare is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program and the Amazon Europe S.a.r.l. Associates Programme, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.co.uk, amazon.com, amazon.ca, amazon.fr, and amazon.de.