The Butterfly Effect

Butterfly Effect

I only knew Ashton Kutcher at the time from Punk’d—which I’m sad to admit how many episodes I watched and that I bought the DVDs—and That 70s Show, but this new movie I was seeing him in trailers for seemed completely different from anything else on his resume. The title caught my attention because of what little bit I knew about chaos theory, and I liked the idea of being able to change the past and alternate realities that the trailer teased. I may have also have liked that Stained song in trail—no, no! It was a different time…

I went to see this movie in the theater with a group of friends. That version runs at one-hundred and thirteen minutes, with the director’s cut being one-hundred and twenty, making it quite a lengthy viewing. The first scene opens in medias res and does a great job of setting the tension while letting the audience know Evan’s motivation, as well as one of the main focal points of the plot, “it’s all about her.” From that point on we learn about the characters and how the events that happen to Evan, Kayleigh, Lenny, and Tommy shape each other and their possible futures. Evan discovers his powers, attempts to change things, but messes with variables where outcomes are only worse. Being determined to fix everything and save all of his friends, he makes bad decisions and sees some very different realities, only to realize that in the end this meddling was just dooming someone no matter what he did. Along the way there are some incredible scenes though.

Butterfly Effect is a dark movie and the tone is echoed through ninety percent of those scenes, while it takes advantage of the R rating with some jarring violence and truly uncomfortable scenarios. I forgot how depressing and creepy the scene with the video camera in the basement was, and it legit made me a little angry. Seeing Evan meet his father and the following death was cool, but the scene with the burning of the dog will stick out in my mind for a long time for multiple reasons. Sure, you feel bad for the kids and the dog, but there was this girl watching the movie with us who REALLY could not take seeing the dog hurt and started yelling about it and slapping our other friend’s leg, gripping it in frustration. She was even complaining about it afterwards outside of the theater. So the scene is brutal and does its job, playing a big part in the film, but I’ll never forget it for that. I also love watching people squirm when the scene where Evan slams his hands on the metal receipt spikes is brought up.

Once things start changing there are some memorable scenes that set a grave mood and should give viewers a foreboding feeling. This to me was the most effective when we see Lenny’s room and how it hasn’t changed at all over the years—very eerie. With each altered section of his past Evan’s alterations have pushed him further away from ‘okay’ and he feels out of place in an alien world. Things change drastically, as do the characters and their personalities, but the acting is great all around and the emotional drama works here. I still cheer when Tommy dies though. Due to the nature of the narrative, the pacing gets a bit awkward in spots, as it works its plot back in reverse almost. There are some people that get hung up on the movie not explaining his ability to go back and there are a few gaps in logic, but overall it comes together nicely in an ending that isn’t happy, but is also not as dark as the rest of the film.

As most fans of this movie know though, there were several versions of that last scene recorded and then one truly different and darker outcome that fits the rest of the movie’s tone much better. In this one, Evan watches a video of his mother when she was pregnant, and just as she is about to give birth, he strangles himself. This is almost made goofy by the voiceovers, but it explains that this isn’t the first time events like these have happened; leaving things wide open to several theories about Evan not being the first of her children to off themselves. I see why they did not go with this ending, but I have to say I like it, and this is a fun movie to theorize about. We also know that his father at least also went through similar events, but there is no telling how far the ‘curse’ in the family goes.

The themes are pretty obvious in this film, but one that gets overlooked I think is the religious overtones. The line “you can’t play God” is uttered in the trailer and by his father, as well as his cellmates beliefs in the prison scene, which leads to the ‘stigmata’ on his hands, but one blatant one I didn’t know was with the main character’s name. Evan Treborn was used because it represents “Event Reborn,” which comes from an earlier version of the script where the characters name was Chris Treborn, where the T could be moved for “Christ Reborn.”

Watching this movie again, I greatly enjoyed it more this time around. The Butterfly Effect may honestly not be given enough credit for how ambitious it was—and for the Ray Bradbury references. There are two sequels that I have yet to see, and a remake is supposedly in the early stages, so I imagine there has to be some fan base for it. That is saying something for a project that was almost abandoned. Josh Hartnett, Seann William Scott, and Joshua Jackson were all offered the role, but it wasn’t until Ashton Kutcher signed on and showed so much interest in the project that he became an executive producer as well that the project was greenlit. Kutcher apparently loved the script so much that he began doing research into chaos theory and psychology to prepare for the role. I think a lot more effort was put into this movie than I originally thought, and in a way revisiting my past with this film has changed my view on it for the better.


Side note:

*How did Punk’d run for twelve years?

*I wanted to see more about how Evan was messing his head up by doing this, do more with how it was changing his brain.

This article originally appeared on my Patreon page. 


About stephenwilds

Writing in the dirty South, this recovering internet addict wakes up every morning wrestling with nightmares of Silent Hill, Battletoads, and where to put that third comma.
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