The Butterfly Effect (DVD-2004)
Reviewed by Dennis Kwiatkowski
The Butterfly Effect,
just released on DVD, tells the story of a young man who, in order to deal with disturbing memories from his childhood, finds
he is able to travel back and forth in time. Moreover, in going back in time, he is
able to alter unpleasant aspects of his past, which leads to unexpected and surprising consequences.
The Butterfly Effect
was a bit of a sleeper-hit when released theatrically. Made for a small budget of
$13 million, the film went on to gross over $79 million worldwide, bringing a fine profit to distributor, New Line Cinema.
was also a bit of a departure for its star, Ashton Kutcher, an actor known more for his work in teenage comedy films. But here, in a more somber and serious role, Kutcher proves to be an actor of surprising
agility. Even more impressive is Amy Smart, who plays Kutcher’s childhood friend
and lifelong love. The script call for unrelenting versatility in her character, as
changes made in Kutcher’s past have an altering effect on her character’s own life and future.
famous short story, ‘A Sound of Thunder’ serves as an unofficial inspiration for this film’s story about
time-travel’s effect. Another influence is modern-day Chaos Theory which asserts
that small changes in a given system can, over time, produce profound effects. But
it is the allure of time-travel itself and consideration of the age-old human reflection: “What if I had only done things
differently in my life?” that gives The Butterfly Effect its intriguing thrust. That, and the realistic and sometimes brutal impact of the story itself.
The Butterfly Effect
is not always a pleasant film. Indeed, several studios shied away from its depiction
of some of the harsher realities of life. New Line Cinema dared to pick up the project
and make the film, to its credit. Whatever flaws the film contains, it is certainly
never boring and its premise is thoroughly thought out.
on the disc include the director’s cut of the film in addition to the theatrically released version. The director’s cut also contains a surprising and controversial alternate ending, which is satisfying
thematically, though this reviewer preferred the well-executed theatrical version ending.
Also included is a director’s commentary, two making-of documentaries (one of which details the evolution of
the superb time-travel special-effect, which was ingeniously achieved within economic constraint).
also two absolutely splendid short documentaries, one on Chaos Theory itself (which explains the Butterfly Effect) and the
other ruminating on the appeal of time-travel. All of this is packaged within New
Line Home Entertainment’s Infinifilm process—which allows user-friendly access to the disc’s various features
incorporated within, if desired, a second viewing of the film itself.
Like Vanilla Sky, or the more recent Eternal Sunshine
of the Spotless Mind, another economical, thoughtful, imaginative film which paid off at the international box office,
The Butterfly Effect offers somewhat of a home-viewing antidote to the onslaught
of Hollywood summer blockbusters currently in season. It’s
a complex, intriguing offering which shows that a modest production budget need not necessarily restrict either a film’s
imagination or its visceral impact.