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HTF REVIEW: The Butterfly Effect

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#1 of 120 OFFLINE   Michael Elliott

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Posted June 02 2004 - 04:03 PM

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The Butterfly Effect

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Studio: New Line
Year: 2004
Rated: R
Film Length: 112/120 minutes
Aspect Ratio: Anamorphic Widescreen (1.85:1)
Audio: Dolby Digital EX 5.1 Surround, DTS 6.1, Dolby Surround
Subtitles: English, Spanish
Retail Price: $29.95

Being a fan of older films I haven’t kept up with much of the newer releases so I went into this film knowing little to nothing about it. I read the brief synopsis on the press release and I must admit that I was expecting another stupid teen film full of bad acting and a predictable plot but that’s why I enjoy watching films. I love watching new films because you never know when something amazing is going to strike you and that amazement is the one feeling I had as the end credits rolled up. I’m not sure about the fan craze this film received and I’m not even sure how the mainstream critics reacted to the film but to me The Butterfly Effect was a truly wonderful film that deals with so many issues and hits on so many emotional levels that I can’t help but feel everyone needs to view this film at least once.

The film has a very simple storyline and deals with Evan Treborn (Ashton Kutcher). As a child Evan suffered from blackouts, which resorted in memory loses that could range from minutes to hours. He and his childhood friends led pretty difficult lives and Evan’s problems were the least of anyone’s. His best friend Kayleigh and her brother Tommy were being sexually abused by their father and this abuse soon turns to Evan as well. A fourth friend is also in the picture and one day the four decide to play a prank by blowing up a mailbox with a stick of dynamite but this turns deadly but Evan blacked out so he isn’t quite sure who got hurt or the impact this prank would have on their lives.

Flash forward seven years and we see Evan is now in college and seems to be living a pretty normal life. After that accident Evan and is mother moved town, which seemed to stop all the blackouts since he hasn’t had one in over seven years. Back when he was suffering the blackouts his doctor requested that he right down his memories in a journal and one day Evan decides to read back through his notes. While reading the notes Evan has another blackout but this time he is able to see what he missed as a child. As an adult reading this journal, Evan is now able to see what he didn’t see as a child and soon he realizes that he might be able to change his fate and the fate of his three friends. Evan keeps reading the journal and changing the past but soon he learns that playing God’s work could come back to haunt you and that’s exactly what happens as the past gets messed up with the future.

The Butterfly Effect is a wonderful movie from start to finish because it asks all the right questions and puts the viewing in a hard place trying to figure out what they would do. It would be like someone offering you a chance to go back in life and save someone you love only to have someone else you love die in their place. The film makes some very bold moves and statements about memories and how they effect us as adults. It deals with us trying to cope with the unknown and at the same time trying to forget stuff that would only hurt others.

This is a very ugly picture from the start and it doesn’t get any cuter as it goes on. Abuse to a child is a rather taboo subject but The Butterfly Effect takes this and runs the course without being too distasteful or becoming offensive. Throughout the film we see what sexual abuse can do to children and the effects it could have on them for the rest of their lives. Not only what the abuse can have on the children but in return what harm those children can cause on others. The downfall to Evan and his friends is the fact that their father was abusing them, which caused them to act out, which led to the deadly accident with the explosives.

The sexual abuse destroyed the lives of four children but the interesting thing the film does is that it has one of the kids trying to go back in time to change things but is it going to change things for the better or is it only going to make things worse? If the sexual abuse never takes place does that mean all four will live a happy life or will something else happen that will destroy all of them? This here is where the film sets up its mystery and this little plot is what goes throughout the movie. This could be fairly typical stuff but instead the screenplay is smart enough to know that you can’t change the past without changing history around, sometimes for the worse. As Evan travels back in time there’s never an easy way out and by the halfway point the mental abuse he is suffering becomes heartbreaking.

I won’t give away the ending but it’s certainly something beautiful to witness. The haunting and emotional effect it has will certainly stick with the viewer for sometime to come and all the questions asked throughout the movie will be answered here in a very quiet scene. I know Ashton Kutcher has taken a lot of heat in the media but I’m sure this is just another case of a star being bashed for being popular. I haven’t seen his previous films but he does a very nice job here taking us through the film and if we didn’t care for his character then there wouldn’t be anything to follow in the film. He goes through many emotions throughout the movie and captures them perfectly. Perhaps a more experienced actor could have brought more to the role but I feel Kutcher brought everything the movie needed.

The Butterfly Effect is a very hard film trying to describe because it’s really not about anything other than emotion. We follow the lives of four abused children and the effects that their past will have on their future and what going back in time can do. Certain films are impossible to talk about and I think this is one of them. Instead of making you talk a movie like this makes you think and I personally feel this was a religious type a film meaning that it’s a movie you feel and not actually see. The film plays perfectly as a mystery but I think the heart of the film is in its main character and how he throws his life away trying to fix something he had no control over.

NOTE: This review is for the Director’s Cut of the film, which is exclusive to this DVD. I haven’t seen the theatrical version and there was no way to view it on the screener I was sent so I’m not sure how much was actually changed between the two. From listening to the commentary track, most of the changes are at the start of the film and deals in character development. There’s no added gore or violence, although the ending has been changed here.

VIDEO---The film is shown widescreen (1.85:1) and is enhanced for 16x9 TVs. Once again it should come to no surprise but New Line has delivered another reference quality transfer. The film takes place during several “times” so a different look is brought to each of them. The flashback scenes were all shot with dim lighting and a grainish look that is captured perfectly here. The scenes look a lot like we’d see in The Godfather due to the brownish tint, somewhat dirty appearance and the dim lights, which gives the look of a film from the 1970’s. This is how the film is supposed to look so it’s certainly not a fault with the transfer. The grain looks very good throughout without any flaws. The present scenes were shot overly bright and these too look remarkably well. The overly bright whites really stand out without any dirt or any sort of speckles. The color is remarkably realistic throughout without any edge enhancement. Another moment that stands out is the opening scenes where we get a stroll through a subdivision where the greens of the grass is a real eye opener. Black levels are deep throughout making this a near flawless presentation.

AUDIO---The theatrical cut comes with a Dolby Digital EX 5.1 Surround track as well as a Dolby 2.0 Surround track. The director’s cut features the EX 5.1 track as well as a DTS ES 6.1 track. I watched the film with the EX soundtrack and then went back to compare various scenes and the DTS does stick out in a few spots but that’s not to say the EX is any sort of disappointment. Those without a DTS system will have no need in doing an upgrade just because this release even with the minor differences. The biggest difference I noticed was a few sound effects, which are a bit sharper in the DTS track. Most noticeably in the opening credits as we hear the wings flapping from butterflies. The clarity here is a bit sharper in the DTS track and a few smaller instances pop up throughout the film. Another example is a scene where characters are playing a game of pool. The sound effects from the balls are a bit sharper in the DTS track but the music score and dialogue is pretty even on both. Dialogue is very sharp and clear without any sorts of problems. The music score also sounds wonderful and really packs a nice little punch and helps raise the emotional level in the film. Channel separation is handled well and the surrounds get some very nice play as well.

EXTRAS---Up first is an audio commentary with Director’s and Screenwriter’s Eric Bress and J. Mackye Gruber. The commentary track is full of wonderful information as the two men are constantly talking it up giving us information about why it took six years to get this film off the ground and to various changes in the screenplay throughout the years. There’s also some candid talk about the actors and some of the abuse from the media. The director’s also talk about all the changes in this director’s cut and the new ending is discussed in good detail and why the men thought the ending here was for the best. There’s also some very funny moments, especially as the end credits roll. The director’s advice us to buy the disc for a friend and they tell the renters to not be cheap bastards and go out and buy the thing. I’m sure they’re being sarcastic but it’s still quite funny to hear because I’m sure all director’s are thinking this way.

Being an Infinifilm release we get all sorts of other extras scattered throughout the disc. In the All Access Pass is where we’ll find the audio commentary as well as other goodies. The Creative Process runs just shy of eighteen minutes and digs into the trouble getting the film made. This is talked about in the commentary but it’s drawn out more here. It’s interesting to hear about all the controversy the screenplay gathered and to the many reason’s studios were saying no to the men. After seeing the film I can’t help but be shocked it was made and hearing this guys talk about their fight is quite fun. Visual Effects runs just over sixteen minutes and deals with (duh) how the effects were made in the film. I’m not a huge sucker for this type of thing but if you are interested in the effects then you should really enjoy this. Most of this deals with how the effects were done and there’s some talk about why there was thought of not including any effects at all fearing it could take away from the actual story.

Up next is a rather large Storyboard Gallery, which features eleven scenes, which we get to view side by side with the storyboards and compare them to what was seen in the actual movie. Again, I’m not typically one who enjoys looking at storyboards but New Line has done a wonderful job in this section making this highly entertaining to go through. The eleven sections are: Mr. Miller’s Home Movies (41s), Evan’s First Flashback (44s), Exterior Jail (24s), Religious Carlos (38s), Jail Ceil Break (28s), Junkyard Scene (25s), Armless Fall (22s), Wheelchair Courtyard (20s), Granola Bar (22s), Sick Mother (57s) and a one minute, nine seconds look at the alternate ending in the director’s cut. You can select each scene through a menu or there is a play all option. Up next are nine alternate/deleted scenes, which are mainly minor changes or extended dialogue. Once again you can select these from the menu or there’s a play all option. All scenes are shown anamorphic and feature a 5.1 track. You’ve also got an option for a director’s commentary on all the scenes. Two more alternate endings are included here and thank God the director’s got there way and these weren’t used. Finally we get a theatrical trailer, which is shown anamorphic and again has a 5.1 track.

Beyond the Movie is our next section, which starts out with two featurettes that are mildly entertaining although they can’t touch the previously mentioned extras. The Science and Psychology of the Chaos Theory runs around nine minutes and takes a look at “The Butterfly Effect” and the legends behind it. We get interviews with various scientist and experts who discuss the Chaos Theory and how it could possibly be real. The History of Allure and Time Travel runs a little over thirteen minutes and again features scientists discussing the possibility of time travel among other things. This is the least interesting extra here but it’s still worth a viewing. Finally we get a Fact Track, which are subtitles playing through the film that offers more details about the making of the film as well as various other theories about the Chaos Theory. If you’re interested in more information about the film then you’ll certainly want to view this. It does offer even more information not covered in the previous extras.

OVERALL---It’s been a long time since a film really took me by surprise but it’s good to have it happen. This is a wonderful movie from start to finish that offers a lot of mystery and suspense but it also features a heart, which is the most important thing. I haven’t seen the theatrical cut, which I know had a lousy ending (from what I’ve heard) but thankfully the director’s got to release their ending on the DVD. The ending I saw was certainly emotional and breathtaking so I couldn’t imagine watching the theatrical version. Once again all credit must go to New Line for delivering a disc that will certainly be one of the best of the year. The video is reference quality especially the various looks that are in the film. The DTS and DD tracks are both wonderful as well. As far as extras goes, I doubt anything else could have been included here.

Both the DTS track and the director’s commentary are limited to the director’s cut of the film.

Release Date: July 6, 2004

#2 of 120 OFFLINE   Neil Joseph

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Posted June 02 2004 - 05:28 PM

I missed this in the theatre but your review stirs up my interest. The real butetrfly effect is something that fascinates me in its complexity. I will have to give this one a rental to check it out.
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#3 of 120 OFFLINE   Michael Pakula

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Posted June 02 2004 - 05:33 PM

I will be picking this one up when it comes out as I really enjoyed it in the theaters. The only problem is that this is a new line release and alliance atlanis handles all the distribution here and that can only mean four things inferior supplements,audio,video,and bilingual packaging so I will be planning to make a visit to the u.s. soon so I can pick this up along with some of the other titles on my ever growing list including Summer School and Field Of Dreams. Does the dvd include deleted scenes that weren't included in the director's cut?. -Mike

#4 of 120 OFFLINE   Justin_S



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Posted June 02 2004 - 08:04 PM

Nice review, and its good to see you enjoyed this film, as its nice to see this magnificent piece of work suck in new fans. When I saw this theatrically, I was blown away, and the film immediately became one of my new all time favorites. I also don't think the theeatrical cut's ending is lousy at all, and despite what some say, its not really a happy ending either. Despite all the naysayers, Kutcher is indeed wonderful here, as is the rest of the cast, and the film is just all around amazing. I'll definitely be getting this DVD.

#5 of 120 OFFLINE   Anthony*B


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Posted June 03 2004 - 12:39 AM

I am genuinely surprised to see all the love for this movie here...I saw it in the theaters & thought it was absolutely horrible, dreadful, depite the interesting subject matter...ah well, to each his own Posted Image

#6 of 120 OFFLINE   Shane Martin

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Posted June 03 2004 - 12:39 AM

I'm interested in this title but I'll probably rent at this point.

#7 of 120 OFFLINE   Sam Davatchi

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Posted June 03 2004 - 01:06 AM

Wow, this is a good movie? Ashton Kutcher?! Really? I should definitely check this one!

#8 of 120 OFFLINE   ChrisBEA



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Posted June 03 2004 - 01:58 AM

I thought this was an excellent movie, good concept, good execution. Kutcher showed the ability to break out of comic roles. I think he has some ability to act, he just needs a top rate director to help him take the next step. I'll be picking this up.

#9 of 120 OFFLINE   Lou Sytsma

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Posted June 03 2004 - 04:06 AM

Is the title a reference to the Ray Bradury tale?
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#10 of 120 OFFLINE   Matt Czyz

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Posted June 03 2004 - 04:13 AM

Ray Bradbury's story was titled "A Sound of Thunder" but the basic premise is the same.

#11 of 120 OFFLINE   Kevin Grey

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Posted June 03 2004 - 04:49 AM

Michael, feel like putting the current ending in spoiler tags? I saw it in the theater (enjoyed it very much) and I had heard a concept about the new ending that was very bizarre. FWIW this movie disturbed my wife very much. The level of violence and evil involving such young kids really freaked her out.

#12 of 120 OFFLINE   Grant H

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Posted June 03 2004 - 06:22 AM

I too would be interested in knowing what the different ending is. I thought the theatrical ending was a little uncoventional considering the typical studio-pressured endings out there. Can't imagine what kind of different ending there would be in a director's cut. Could totally change the flavor of this kind of film. Too bad pre-order prices for this film are not much better than $20! Looks like another BBV Pre-viewed candidate. Reminds me, I wanted to pick up Kill Bill pre-viewed for cheap.
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#13 of 120 OFFLINE   Michael Elliott

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Posted June 03 2004 - 06:33 AM

OK, at the time of watching the film last night I didn't know the ending to the theatrical cut. I talked to a few friends today who saw the film and I'm certainly glad the director's cut ending is here. The two alternate endings included here are basically the same as the theatrical cut but the "reactions" are a bit different. The rest of the deleted scenes are not part of the director's cut. Also, it isn't clearly said but it appears the director's hated all three endings that New Line had them shoot. The DC ending is the only one they prefer.

Here's the new ending but I really wouldn't read this if I were you. It really struck me as one of the most beautiful, emotional and haunting endings I've ever seen so I'd hate to spoil it for you. Posted Image The director's cut ending is:

Evan is in the hospital and rushes under the desk to write the note. He then turns on the home movies, which is showing a clip of his mother in labor about to give birth to him. This is where Evan flashes back in time and while inside his mother (a baby of course), he wraps the cord around his neck killing himself and saving his mother and friends. Going back in the film, this is where the mother said she had two kids die before Evan was born and then the psychic told him that he had no life line and wasn't meant to be born.

The director's and the one featurette talk in great detail about that ending and they refused to make the movie unless they could film it that way. That's why it took 6 years for the film to get off the ground but even then New Line wanted one of the three "happy" endings. NL also agreed to let them release a director's cut on DVD.

#14 of 120 OFFLINE   Grant H

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Posted June 03 2004 - 07:22 AM

I caved and read it. All I can say is: HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!! I can see why the studio wouldn't go for that.
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#15 of 120 OFFLINE   Justin_S



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Posted June 03 2004 - 07:46 AM

That's what I heard the DC ending was a while back. I didn't like the sound of it then, and don't like the sound of it now. I'll watch it when I get the disc of this amazing gem, but I'd bet my bottom dollar I'll prefer the theatrical ending.

#16 of 120 OFFLINE   Nate Anderson

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Posted June 03 2004 - 09:24 AM

The title is a reference to Chaos Theory in the respect that a butterfly flapping it's wings in one place could cause a typhoon in another part of the world. Basically, it's referring to the fact that one little thing like the air moved by a butterfly flapping it's wings can grow to something comepletely chaotic and uncontrollable. Hence, The Butterfly Effect.
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#17 of 120 OFFLINE   Rhett_Y



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Posted June 03 2004 - 09:49 AM

This one looks like a blind buy for me......... R~
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#18 of 120 OFFLINE   Michael Elliott

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Posted June 03 2004 - 11:36 AM

The director's cut ending might sound stupid and it does but then again everything in this film sounds stupid yet it works wonderfully. To me, the happy endings just don't work at all and it goes against stuff that was in the film previously. I might feel different had I seen the theatrical cut first though. As I said earlier I didn't know there was an alternate ending while watching the movie. I personally think New Line had a lot of guts making a film like this even without the more controversial ending. There's a lot of abuse towards children in this film and most of it is very unsettling and a taboo in Hollywood films. I've seen unknown, low-budget horror films where kids are killing targets yet I don't recall one from Hollywood going this far.

#19 of 120 OFFLINE   WilliamG


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Posted June 03 2004 - 02:01 PM

My family and I saw this at the theater and really liked it. Ok ... so I know this isn't rocket science, but am I understanding correctly: the original theatrical ending is NOT on this movie? Is that right? If it isn't, that doesn't seem exactly right. Couldn't they put it in as an extra as Original Theatrical Ending so we could have it both ways?

#20 of 120 OFFLINE   Michael Elliott

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Posted June 03 2004 - 02:14 PM

William, the DVD features both the theatrical cut and the director's cut. The director's cut is on SIDE A and features the DTS and commentary track. The theatrical version is on SIDE B and has a DD 5.1 track. All the other extras are on SIDE A as well.

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