The Butterfly Effect Review

Since the age of seven, Evan Treborn (Ashton Kutcher) has suffered blackouts. These usually occurred during traumatic childhood events and left him with no memory of what had taken place. Most of them, like most of the trauma in Evan's life, can be traced to his ties with the Miller family, a brood who give new meaning to the term dysfunctional. His crush on pretty, blonde Kayleigh (Amy Smart) brought him to the attention of her violent brother Tommy (William Lee Scott) and their paedophile father (Eric Stoltz), both of whom had a powerful, negative effect on his life. Now 20 and a gifted psychology student, Evan is still tormented by a past he can't fully remember, although he's well-adjusted compared to Tommy and Kayleigh and their mutual friend Lenny (Elden Henson), who remember their experiences all too well and have never gotten over them.

Evan's lost memories finally come back with a vengeance when he's reading a childhood diary and he finds himself transported back into his seven-year-old self for the duration of one of his blackouts. He learns that, with practice, he can do this at will and not only relive his experiences but alter them. He can return to a pivotal event in his past, prevent it happening and cause the world around him to change accordingly. The catch is, he can change the timeline but not control it. While he might stop one disaster, its absence may lead to an even worse one. And indeed this is what happens, causing Evan to go back again and again to correct the messes he's made.

The Butterfly Effect takes its title from the well-known example of chaos theory - that a slight waft of air from a butterfly flapping its wings could set in motion a chain of atmospheric events that could cause a storm. This story isn't really about chaos theory though, it's about the danger of altering timelines, a subject that's been thoroughly explored in science fiction, most famously in the Back To The Future trilogy and more seriously in Ray Bradbury's short story A Sound Of Thunder, which is itself coming to the screen later this year. The twist in this film is that, unlike Marty McFly, Evan has the power to travel through time spontaneously. How he can do this is something the film never explains, perhaps wisely. All we learn is that Evan's father could do it, that it landed him in a mental asylum and that he's appalled his "curse" has been passed on to his son.

I didn't have a problem accepting Evan's gift, god knows I've swallowed sillier concepts in movies. I did have trouble with the repetitive structure of the script, which is like a videogame where the levels look different but the gameplay is always the same. The plot is a loop that keeps repeating and once you've figured out how it works, you can no longer be involved with it and your interest steadily drains away. Writing / directing team Eric Bress and J Mackye Gruber previously collaborated on the script for Final Destination 2, another film which repeated the same trick over and over to numbing effect. The Butterfly Effect is a step up from that weak effort. Technically it's top drawer and there's some decent work from Ashton Kutcher, an under-rated actor. What's missing is a point - it can't even be enjoyed as trashy entertainment, since its subject matter is child abuse. In the end, all that keeps you watching is morbid curiosity about what Evan's going to change next and how he's going to screw things up this time.

Overall

4

out of 10

Last updated: 25/06/2018 16:03:36

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