Retrospective: The Butterfly Effect 3 – Revelations (2009)

Welcome back to the third and final part of The Butterfly Effect retrospective! You’ll probably notice that this has definitely been the shortest franchise we’ve covered so far, and I must say that that’s one of the reasons I chose it. For one thing, it saves me a bit of schedule juggling which can get hectic with a franchise with 5+ entries. I also chose it because the idea of the retrospectives is to cover franchises, and not all of them are extensive – hence why I wanted to focus on the shorter end of the spectrum with a film I liked. I think 3 entries will be the minimum barrier of entry though, so no Battle Royale or The Raid quite yet. Anyway, with that in mind, we get to the most recent Butterfly Effect movie: another straight-to-DVD release. Would it succumb to the same problems that plagued The Butterfly Effect 2, or would Revelations carve its own niche? Read on to find out…

This poster may not tell us a single thing about the movie, but it’s pretty cool looking in my opinion.

The Butterfly Effect as a viable franchise was pretty much dead even before the second film was made (due to the venomous lashing it would get whenever anyone brought it up), but apparently it was successful enough to merit another straight-to-DVD sequel. The film was produced by After Dark films, which marketed its releases with an annual After Dark Horrorfest, which showcased eight independent horror films. Most of them were pretty shlocky, but it seems they’ve built up enough capital to get some more high profile releases, including Wristcutters: A Love Story and Sylvester Stallone’s Bullet to the Head.

The script was written by Holly Brix, who has written basically nothing… it would seem that this was her first screenwriting assignment to get greenlit. Seth Grossman was hired to direct, who similarly hadn’t really done much. He had a couple documentary and short film credits to his name, but not much to go by to get him the gig as director of a dark time travel thriller… although at least The Elephant King was supposed to be pretty good. Anyway, the cast was once again filled with nobodies. The protagonist, Sam, is played by Chris Carmack, who is known less for his acting (which includes such greats as David R. Ellis’ Shark Night 3D and Into the Blue 2) and more for his physique… a fact reinforced by his damn Wikipedia portrait. The only other character worth noting is Sam’s sister, Jenna, played by Rachel Miner (who has some decent TV credits to her name but a lot of poor quality stuff as well).

While Hollie Brix is a neophyte scriptwriter, her take on the material is probably the most interesting aspect of the movie. Rather than rehashing the story of the first movie like The Butterfly Effect 2 did, Revelations follows a time traveler who uses his abilities to solve crimes, while sticking to a code to prevent himself from changing the past. He has determined that changing the past only results in tragedy, and so needs to restrain himself to prevent himself from inadvertently killing people. However, when the sister of his murdered ex-girlfriend asks for his help in solving the killing, the rules get thrown away as Sam can’t help but try to save her. Unfortunately, in the process he accidentally unleashes a sadistic serial killer on the populace…

A mystery is a pretty cool angle to go with the time travel material, but unfortunately it doesn’t manage to be engaging for a few reasons. First of all, the whole relationship between Sam and his dead girlfriend is basically jettisoned out the window as soon as Sam time travels, so we don’t get any sort of emotional drive from that and when she shows up again at the end of the film it’s very awkward. This largely stems from the fact that the acting and dialogue is mediocre at best and the two leads are bland (Rachel Miner is especially bad and sometimes Chris Carmack’s facial expressions are unintentionally hilarious).

The script is also absolutely riddled with plot holes and fridge logic. Seriously, just writing this retrospective entry made the logical issues even more prevalent than when I was watching the film. For one thing, characters aren’t consistent at all when time travelling. In the original timeline, a cop named Glenn is a good friend of Sam’s. However, when he changes the past, Glenn begins pursuing him as a suspect of the murders. Despite that, when Sam gets arrested they talk like they’re old pals, even though in this timeline they only know each other as hunter-hunted. The character Lonnie, who was cheating with Sam’s girlfriend, is also a blatant red herring in retrospect, since the only reason he exists is for him to say to Sam “YOU KILLED HER!!!” to make it look like Sam’s the murderer all along… except that when it turns out he isn’t, mistaking somebody else for Sam makes absolutely no sense. Sam also makes a change that makes him have to rent out his couch to a dude named Paco, and then after another change suddenly Sam becomes Paco’s couch mate… how does that work exactly? It’s like a lot of the attempts at “butterfly effect” changes were made without really understanding the idea of the concept, because there’s absolutely no logic to the decisions they make.

In a time travel movie, the “rules” should be well-defined, and Revelations seems to actually try this. Sam’s friend, Goldburg, lays out the basics – only observe so you don’t change the past, always “jump” with supervision and don’t return to the same time twice or you’ll fry your brain. Unfortunately, two of those rules are incredibly ill-defined and don’t really make a lot of sense (not to mention that they’re broken in the film itself without consequence). First off, if you’re jumping to the past, why would you need supervision? It’s not like they’re going to notice if you do something… the only possible explanation I can think of is that if their observer is gone when they wake up, the time traveler knows they changed things. Still, some elaboration would have helped here, because otherwise it just sounds like Golburg and Jenna like to stare at Sam’s naked body… Anyway, the “don’t jump to the same time or your brain will fry” thing is clearly just a plot convenience. That way people can’t say “well why not go back to your girlfriend’s murder again and kill the killer this time?”, because clearly that’s what Sam should actually do. Luckily for the plot, Sam’s an idiot (although at least he’s a well-intentioned idiot) and messes up his chances to change things in the silliest of ways every time he jumps. Most hilariously is the time he hides in a victim’s closet and watches her getting raped… until it turns out that it was just a roleplay between her and her boyfriend, who then finds Sam in the closet and punches him out. Oops.

Another notable element of the film is that its content is noticeably more explicit than the previous films in the franchise. By that I mean that the violence is extremely bloody and gory and that the movie features a borderline pornographic sex scene… and yet it still doesn’t manage to be as dark as the original film was. I’m guessing that the more hardcore elements of the film in part stem from After Dark films pushing the horror angle and trying to get a wider viewership, but it makes the film feel more sleazy and cheap than either of the other films in the franchise. The violence is pretty over the top, with the first couple minutes featuring a brutal, detailed shot of a mother getting her skull caved in in front of her son. Then there’s a few scenes of women getting chopped up with a buzz saw (complete with fingore), which of course results in fountains of blood. The violence is infrequent, but when it hits it’s like an Evil Dead movie. As for the sex scene, it just comes out of absolutely nowhere. First we get the generic bartender woman flirting with Sam, pan down to her cleavage and then HOLY CRAP, UNNECESSARY, GRAPHIC SEX SCENE. Like, I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say borderline pornographic. It’s only about 30 seconds long, but in that time they go through a half dozen ridiculous positions, the girl looks like a porn star and they even play a bloody porno soundtrack over it all. It’s just a totally out of left field scene and was obviously only thrown in because someone decided that the movie needed boobs or it wasn’t going to sell.

And then there’s the ending… Sam finally unravels the location of the serial killer and discovers that the killer is… Jenna!? And she can time travel as well? Oh no! Turns out that Sam saved her from dying when they were kids and she’s had a creepy, incestual obession with Sam ever since. Therefore, she has been killing off all of his potential girlfriends to force them to be together… she’s like the time travelling version of the Overly Attached Girlfriend. It also turns out that her cover has been blown a bunch of times now and she just changes the past to keep Sam from knowing. As a result, Sam time travels to when he saves her and just lets her die instead, making everything alright. It’s a rushed ending that isn’t satisfying in the slightest. For one thing, having two people time travelling at the same time creatures enormous logical headaches – in order for the plot to work, Sam and Jenna must have been travelling to the same time periods simultaneously, which shouldn’t work according to the film’s logic. There’s also the fact that Sam blatantly breaks the “don’t travel to the same time twice” rule in order to kill Jenna, with no repercussions. Couldn’t he have, I dunno, just prevented the fire instead of killing his sister (therefore keeping everyone alive and keeping Jenna from going gaga over him)? Again… Sam’s an idiot. The ending is also kind of stupid because Sam’s daughter, also called Jenna, seems to be a psycho as well – it’s sort of implied that the other Jenna got reincarnated into her or possessed her or something, but it’s just silly and unnecessary. Someone probably said “dammit, this ending where the sister gets burned alive is too happy, we need to make it dark, STAT!” Anyway, all of this resolution happens in about a 5 minute span, which is way too short for what the movie needed. Kind of like Die Hard With a Vengeance, the poor ending ruins the rest of the film.

The Butterfly Effect 3: Revelations isn’t as horrible as I make it sound. It certainly gets points for originality and actually manages to be somewhat engaging, but the glaring issues with the script, acting, overall cheapness and horrid ending dampen the enjoyment significantly. That said, I think there’s a kernel of a great film hiding within the film, so if you’re very forgiving you might want to check it out – however, it doesn’t hold a candle to the first Butterfly Effect film.


So, The Butterfly Effect is dead and buried now, right? Well no, it’s not, and that’s another major reason why I chose to cover the film in a retrospective. Almost half a year ago it was announced that a remake of the original film is in production, with Eric Bress returning to write the script. People have reacted pretty derisively of the announcement, but there hasn’t been any news on the film’s status since, so for all we know it might have been cancelled. However, if it does get made, then it could be a blessing – The Butterfly Effect has a great premise, one which hasn’t been properly explored yet. If the remake manages to fix the logical issues with the original, it could be the best entry in the series. Like they say in the link, The Butterfly Effect is the sort of movie that should be remade because it hasn’t been done properly yet. Speculating even further, I think that a sequel should give Revelations‘ murder-mystery angle another shot, because it is a great central idea to go with. That said, if the remake never happens I’m sure I’ll be satisfied with the uniqueness of the original film, but I’m moderately intrigued at present.

This is how I’d rank the series from best to worst:
1. The Butterfly Effect
2. The Butterfly Effect 2 (it’s better made than Revelations, even if it’s not as worthwhile)
3. The Butterfly Effect 3: Revelations

As always, thanks for reading and leave a comment for any future franchise suggestions!

Retrospective: The Butterfly Effect 2 (2006)

Despite a very mixed reception, The Butterfly Effect made enough money for New Line Cinema to warrant a sequel. Could it fix the issues with the original, or was it doomed to straight-to-DVD hell? Read on to find out…

While The Butterfly Effect made New Line a solid profit, its very mixed reaction made a sequel a bit of a risky proposition. As a result, while a sequel was quickly greenlit, the production budget was slashed in half and the film ended up going straight-to-DVD. To be honest, I’m having trouble finding out if the film was always planned as a straight-to-DVD feature or if it ended up that way due to a lack of confidence over the production, but in any case it’s not a great sign of the sequel’s quality. In any case, original writer-directors Eric Bress and J. Mackye Gruber did not return to write the script or direct.

The film was directed by John R. Leonetti, better known as a horror movie cinematographer/director of photography rather than a director in his own right. The script was written by Michael D. Weiss, whose CV includes such notable films as… uh… I’ll Always Know What You Did Last Summer, Hostel: Part III and Journey to the Center of the Earth 3D. Ouch, when a Brendan Fraser kids movie’s the highlight of your resume, you know something’s wrong. As for the cast, the film stars a bunch of nobodies: Eric Lively (who has really only been in unnotable roles for his whole career) plays the lead character, Nick. Dustin Milligan (male lead of… Shark Night 3D) plays Trevor, Nick’s best friend. His girlfriend Amanda is played by Gina Holden (known for minor roles in Saw 3D, in which I remember her dying an infuriatingly unjustified death, and Final Destionation 3). The only “big name” in the film is Erica Durance, famous for TV series Smallville and Saving Hope, who plays Nick’s girlfriend Julie.

The plot follows Nick, a sales representative at a tech start-up. After his girlfriend and best friends are killed in a car accident, in which he was the sole survivor, he discovers he has the ability to time travel to fix his life. However, as he changes things to try to get himself ahead, he soon discovers that altering the past can lead to unexpected consequences in the future… As you can probably tell by that short synopsis, The Butterfly Effect 2 is basically a “rehash-sequel” along the lines of Howling IV. The script is a hell of a lot less daring and complicated than the original film. In a lot of ways, it feels like Michael D. Weiss was trying to fix some of the criticisms of the original film. One of the ways this is done is by making the plot far simpler. For example, the blackouts have been removed from the equation entirely, the time travel sequences only stretch back a year and the number of time travel instances has been cut back significantly. As a result, The Butterfly Effect 2 boasts far less plot holes and logical inconsistencies than the original film, although more time travel couldn’t have hurt. Weiss also cuts out much of the extremely dark content which defined the original (the darkest thing in this is a really awkward man-rape, but it’s played for laughs). However, this change is less-positive, since instead of interesting, psychotic leads we get whiny, pretty-faced douche bags. Ultimately, this just makes the sequel’s content far more boring.

While the film doesn’t have as many logical issues as the original, the script still has some strange issues. For example, there’s no real setup for Nick’s time travel abilities. His mother says that he has always had nightmares and headaches, and it’s sort of implied that post-traumatic stress disorder unlocks the ability to time travel. However, it’s not really explained at all how he unlocks his abilities, or how he manages to function when just looking at photos gives him debilitating headaches. The film also works a mention of Jason Treborn into the plot just to link it to the original movie, but that just makes the mechanics of time travel more confusing… how many people are out there that can change the past?

The characters are also very uninteresting. No one puts in a particularly great performance, although they don’t really have much material to work with. Compared to Evan Treborn, Nick just comes across as a dick. Rather than using time travel to help his friends, he uses it as a self-serving tool to get ahead. He embarrasses his boss, steals his promotion and makes himself rich as a form of revenge… and then continues to treat his (now innocent) former boss like shit after he does all this. Not only that, but he inadvertently screws over his company in the process, taking it from a successful start up to a company hemorrhaging money and in debt to the mob. The other characters aren’t much better – Julie is the generic girlfriend, Trevor’s the annoying best friend and Amanda has so little screentime that I can’t even tell you what she was like. Like Evan, Nick also has a whiney mother, but she’s basically useless to the plot, existing only to tell us that Nick’s father was crazy too… a plot point which really only exists to rehash the original film’s family dynamics. Oh, and I’d be remiss to neglect to mention that totally random and offensive gay gangster, Wayne. He barely has any screen time, but he is such a ridiculous addition to the plot that he’s memorable (and yes, he has the stereotypical gay voice). This is mostly due to the aforementioned man-rape scene where Nick wakes up getting blown off by somebody. He thinks it’s his girlfriend, but then suddenly Wayne pops out of the covers and everyone in the universe yells “WTF?!?!” simultaneously. It’s such a random and pointless scene that it’s almost funny.

Actually, the random gay blowjob seems to be a symptom of the lowered budget, because The Butterfly Effect 2 features a few pointless sex scenes which seem to only exist to sell copies of the movie. Now, The Butterfly Effect didn’t exactly shy away from sleaze (there were plenty of sex scenes and a random full-frontal shot), but these sequences were usually very short – in the sequel, they’re far more pronounced and extended, even if they don’t show as much. In addition to the gay blowjob scene, there’s also a mostly-clothed sex scene which goes on longer than it really needed to without any real justification beyond “(clothed) boobies!!!”, and a goofy scene where Nick bangs his boss’s daughter in the bathroom. These scenes don’t really add anything and were clearly only implemented to secure an R-rating and draw in viewers looking for a bit of sleaze.

Of course, the budget also shows itself elsewhere. The opening titles and title card are pathetically tacky, like something you’d expect to see in a student horror film. In general, the film just looks cheaply filmed, in spite of Leonetti’s cinematographer experience. The editing is also very bad at times – I noticed that the blood makeup would very noticeably change at times and that even one of the pictures that Nick looks at changes between shots.

It also seems that a lot of content ended up getting cut out of the film. At one point, Nick whines that everything he does just makes things worse… which doesn’t make a lot of sense, because he has only time traveled twice and all the bad stuff only happened because of one change (which only attempted to “fix” one thing). I really wonder if they had more time travel sequences planned and/or written, but weren’t given the budget to implement them. It’s also possible that they had filmed much of the movie, but then ran out of budget and had to rush the last act as a result.

Oh and speaking of the ending, it’s an absolute embarrassment. It makes no sense and is not set up at all. To set the scene, Nick travels back to just before the car accident to try to save his friends. He tells Julie that he’s breaking up with her (which doesn’t make a lot of sense in itself, he’s only time traveled twice and hasn’t exactly exhausted his options enough to require self-sacrifice), which causes Julie to rush off in her car. Nick chases after her to save her from crashing and dying (even though the accident can’t even happen now as per the butterfly effect itself), and succeeds… however, in doing so, he ends up in oncoming traffic and decides to sacrifice himself to save her by driving off a cliff. What the hell!?!???!?! Why did Nick commit vehicular suicide? He barely even bothered to change his past, suicide wasn’t even a justified option to save anybody, unlike Evan in The Butterfly Effect director’s cut, where he had exhausted all other possibilities. It’s like they wanted to force in a twist/Christ-like ending, but did so without logic. As a result, we get an incredibly unsatisfying non-sequitur ending of epic proportions. Of course, that’s not the end, because Julie gives birth to a son who shares Nick’s time travel abilities. Oh no! Time travel baby! The cycle continues!

All in all, the movie just isn’t very interesting. It’s basically just a cheap, sanitized version of the original, which is about the worst thing you can say about a sequel – why bother with it when there’s a superior version out there? The Butterfly Effect 2 is just mediocre, although the stupid ending makes it hard to recommend, even as a curiosity.


Be sure to come back soon for the third, and final, part of this retrospective series, The Butterfly Effect 3: Revelations!

*Coincidentally, Holden and Milligan both appeared in Final Destination 3… that franchise always seems to be an anchor for the Retrospective series!

Retrospective: The Butterfly Effect (2004)

Welcome back good readers as we begin a new retrospectives series! If you want to check out previous series, I’ve added a “Retrospectives” link on the pages sidebar that lists all the previous series we’ve covered and links to all the entries – be sure to check it out! Anyway, the franchise that we’re going to be focusing on for the next few weeks is The Butterfly Effect series. And obviously, since this is the first entry in the retrospective, we’re going to be examining the first film in the franchise, 2004’s The Butterfly Effect. For the record, this is easily one of the most divisive movies that I can think of, so much like my review of Live Free or Die Hard, I expect this entry could get heated. That’s okay, we’re all entitled to our opinions, and that’s all that this is. Oh, and this review is based off of the Director’s Cut, which is generally considered the “definitive” version among viewers.

Kind of an odd poster design. On the one hand, I like how sinister it looks, and it plays up the messed-up romance between Evan and Kayleigh. On the other hand though, it doesn’t really scream “psychological-time-travel-thriller”.

The script for The Butterfly Effect was written by J. Mackye Gruber and Eric Bress, both of which would end up directing the film. Bress and Gruber were also known for writing Final Destination 2, with Bress also having the dubious “honour” of having penned The Final Destination. The story was heavily inspired by Ray Bradbury’s short story, “A Sound of Thunder”, in which a time traveler accidentally steps on a butterfly and changes the future through a seemingly insignificant event. Of course, both stories stem from the butterfly effect itself, an example (and shorthand) of chaos theory. The idea is that small changes in a system can have larger, unforseen consequences. The classic example is a butterfly flapping its wings can cause a chain of events which eventually leads to a sunny day becoming a hurricane instead. It’s also one of the reasons why the weather can’t be predicted with any sort accuracy more than 3 or 4 days ahead of time.

Apparently The Butterfly Effect‘s script had been floating around for quite some time, becoming known as one of the most widely read unproduced scripts in Hollywood. However, when Ashton Kutcher came on as executive producer, the script finally was greenlit and entered production. Seann William Scott and Josh Hartnett, among others, were offered the lead role of Evan Treborn, but it eventually fell on Kutcher himself. Kutcher’s involvement in the film was (and still is) the film’s biggest controversial talking point, as he was (and still is) mostly known for being a horrible actor who appears in terrible movies. Final Destination 2 actress and Retrospectives favourite Ali Larter was offered the main female role of Kayleigh, but the role eventually was picked up by Amy Smart (best known for Rat Race, Road Trip and, uh, Crank…).

The story of The Butterfly Effect revolves around a child called Evan Treborn. When he’s seven, he starts experiencing blackouts, during which he displays seemingly psychotic behaviour (violent drawings, grabbing kitchen knives, etc). His psychiatrist recommends that he begin chronicling his memories in journals as therapy and that he see his father, who went insane years prior. However, when Evan confronts his father, he blacks out, only waking in time to see his father trying to strangle him before being bludgeoned to death. As the years pass, Evan becomes close with his abused neighbour, Kayleigh Miller. He, Kayleigh, her disturbed brother Tommy and another friend named Lenny grow up together, until a prank-gone-awry committed by Tommy ends fatally. This prank gives Lenny severe PTSD, causing Evan’s mother to move away. Evan promises to come back and save Kayleigh from her pedophile father and psychotic brother.

Seven years later, Evan’s a gifted psych major working on theoretical memory assimilation. However, when he uncovers an old journal, he gets a flashback to one of his blackouts, shocking him since he could not remember what happened during them. As he begins to uncover more details about the past, Evan discovers that he can use these flashbacks to not only witness the past, but to change it as well. Unfortunately, as Evan changes things, the consequences of his actions reverberate and cause unexpected tragedy in the future…

Obviously, the film’s plot is fairly complicated (it is a time travel movie after all), and what you think of it will really make-or-break the film for you. On the one hand, the script makes for a very effective tragic thriller. On the other hand, the movie’s rules aren’t particularly well-defined and as a result there are some pretty major logical gaps. For example, in the opening scene, why the hell does Evan bother to write a note? Who’s going to read it if he’s going to change the past anyway? Also, when Evan blacks out he seems to remember some aspects of what happened, because he writes down details he wouldn’t have known otherwise. Why did Evan’s father try to kill him (remember, when Evan goes to the past, he changes the future, so he wasn’t travelling to his own past to make his father kill him)? Probably the biggest, most noticable logical gap though is when Evan goes back in time to give himself “stigmata” – how did he not change his future in the process? The last two points in particular highlight how ill-defined the rules of time travel can be in the film. The movie doesn’t seem to make up its mind whether Evan’s actually travelling to the past without changing the future or not. For the most part, it’s fairly consistent, but there are moments which don’t make a lot of sense under scrutiny. There’s also the fact that when Evan changes the past, only his circle of friends seem to have any changes, rather than the world around them, but this was likely done to simplify things rather than being an oversight.

The blackouts as a plot device are pretty confusing too. For the first viewing or two they’re totally fine because they’re meant to be a mystery. However, when you actually start thinking about them, they don’t make any sense. It’s heavily implied that Evan’s time travelling causing his own blackouts, but since the whole point of the movie is that time travel changes the future, how is this even possible within the movie’s own logic? I’m not even taking time paradoxes into account either with this assessment – the time travel in this movie doesn’t operate with multiple dimensions or alternate timelines. When the past is changed, everything is changed instantly. Then there’s the question of whether Evan can only travel back to times where he blacked out – this is implied as well, but never really stated. I kind of wonder if there’s a deleted scene somewhere where Evan finds out he can only change the past during his blackouts. In any case, the blackouts are a very confusing element of the film once you start dwelling upon them – however, this point isn’t too critical since it’s intentionally kept mysterious and doesn’t detract from enjoyment of the film.

The plot is also notable for just how dark it gets. Sometimes it goes on overload, since it always seems like everything ends up being the worst case scenario. Seriously, how much bad shit can happen to one group of people!? Evan ends up in the worst prison ever, Kayleigh ends up in the dirtiest whorehouse ever, Lenny ends up in solitary confinement at the psych ward, etc. Anyway, think of the most vile evils you can, and there’s a good chance that it’s a major plot point in The Butterfly Effect. It’s hard to choose the worst thing when you’ve got child pornography, molestation, abuse, rape, suicide, animal torture, death, murder, attempted infanticide, sadism, forced prostitution, etc. Hell, that’s not even going into the even worse details of these acts – one murder is committed by a child. A woman, her baby and another child get blown to smithereens by a stick of dynamite. The Director’s Cut ending is perhaps the crowning achievement of darkness though – a baby commits suicide by strangling itself with its umbilical cord. Lovely. As screwed up as all of that sounds (and it’s sure as hell screwed up), the script is kind of enjoyable for how twisted it is. It’s certainly not for the weak-willed, but I struggle to think of a movie outside of the horror genre which is this relentlessly dark.

Of course, since it is a time travel film, one of the most interesting aspects is seeing how the future is changed each time Evan travels to the past, and the unintended consequences of his actions. Honestly, the viewer is rooting for Evan to fix things – I know I’d keep on trying, even if I kept making things worse every time. The changes are a little… drastic though sometimes. How does Evan go from relatively normal college guy to frat boy douchebag, simply because he and Kayleigh stayed together? Why does Kayleigh sell herself to the dirtiest pimp ever when her brother dies? For the most part it’s not too bad, but those two examples are points where the film could have done with some restraint.

As for the acting, Ashton Kutcher is of course the talking point. He takes a lot of shit for his role, but I honestly think he did very well overall… well, except for this scene anyway. The only actor who I thought did a particularly poor job was Melora Walters, who plays Evan’s mother. Almost every line of dialogue she says comes out unconvincingly, but at least she’s a secondary character. Amy Smart’s Kayleigh was also rather inconsistent, although not enough to derail the film by any means. The Butterfly Effect also features quite a few child actors due to the time travel mechanics, which could have been very problematic – after all, child actors aren’t exactly known for being amazing performers. However, the movie dodges a bullet, since I actually quite liked the child and teen actors in the film. The kid who plays the teenaged Tommy might have been a tiny bit over the top, but he really does a great job of coming across as a disturbed, twisted son of a bitch… not to mention that he totally sells Tommy’s implied incestuous desire towards Kayleigh.

The theatrical and director’s cut endings both deserve a mention, as each radically changes the film. In the theatrical ending, an exasperated Evan goes back to his seventh birthday party and tells Kayleigh that he’ll kill her if she comes near him again. This causes Kayleigh and Tommy to move away with their mom, therefore avoiding their father’s abuse, preventing Lenny from becoming traumatized by Tommy and allowing his mother to have a fulfilling life. In the present, Evan destroys his journals and tries to regain a relatively normal life. It’s a bittersweet ending, since Evan has to hurt his true love to keep her safe, although the viewer definitely feels that things are going to be ideal for everyone involved… although it never really addresses how messed up Evan had become throughout this whole ordeal.

However, the director’s cut is another beast entirely. For one thing, the ending is better set up – Evan discovers that his mother has had two stillbirths before him, and that both his father and grandfather both went crazy from their “gift”. This cut of the film also actually sets up the revelation that journals aren’t the only means of time travel available to Evan. In the ending, Evan goes back to his birth and strangles himself in the womb. This ending is just plain tragic and depressing, and you could also argue that it’s preposterous and tasteless… but it’s far more in-tune with what the rest of the film had been setting up and brilliant in its audacity. I prefer the director’s cut ending because it’s very powerful and affecting, although I’m glad that there are alternate cuts for those who want something a little less depressing.

The Butterfly Effect was, and continues to be, an extremely divisive film in pretty much every regard. For as much as its plot, acting or ending are praised, it seems to get an equal number of scorn for the exact same qualities. For my own part, I actually went into this review with a harsh eye on the property to try to see what the haters dislike so much about the film… but I still came out thinking it’s a flawed piece of brilliance. Honestly, I can look past most of the logical gaps, because The Butterfly Effect is so unique and daring that it nullifies their impact for me. If you can stomach the dark content, then I heartily recommend the film.


Be sure to come back soon for part two of this retrospective series, The Butterfly Effect 2!