Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Butterfly Effect (2004)

Chaos Theory: “It has been said that something as small as the flutter of a butterfly's wing can ultimately cause a typhoon halfway around the world.”

We all have sometimes spoken about “turning back the clock”, or changing that one event in our life; like taking a left turn instead of the right turn….getting into school A and not school B…and perhaps things would’ve turned out differently for us! There have certainly been times in our lives when such a thought has always crossed our minds…”What if? Oh..what could’ve been!”

“The Butterfly Effect” makes an attempt to play this thought out on the big screen with its initially complex narrative.

Some people have called “The Butterfly Effect” “similar to Donnie Darko”, because of its theme revolving around time travel and a troubled teen. While this 2004 American thriller, starring Ashton Kutcher (who most people love to hate), isn’t anywhere close to “Donnie Darko” in terms of sheer originality of story-telling and its unforgettable characters, it isn’t as worthless as most critics have made it out to be.

 Lenny, Evan, Kayleigh (Evan’s childhood sweetheart) and her psychologically troubled brother Tommy are the recurring characters in the film shown at various stages in their lives in their growing-up years. Evan (who ultimately grows up to be Kutcher) has a gift...only he does not realize that until much later. For starters, he is a problem child and seems to have some kind of a medical condition whereby he ‘blacks out’ and of course, does not remember what happened during the black-out period. Only the people around him know that the events that occurred during the black-out period were of a very grave nature and some that may have brought about irreversible changes.

After several disturbing episodes in their childhood the kids grow up…the present era shows Evan (Kutcher) studying in high school but apparently has almost no contact with his aforementioned childhood buddies. It has been 7 years and Evan hasn’t had a blackout! And as he reminisces old times through his journals he has been maintaining, he realizes what his gift is! The episodes during the moments in which he blacked out and had no memory of, suddenly appear to him as he seems to have been transported back in time. Evan then realizes, he has the ability to go back to the past and manipulate or “re-write” these important events from his past, which could alter the future completely for him and his friends! However, things aren’t as hunky dory as they seem, and Evan’s attempts to change things aren’t entirely without their side-effects. Evan tries to use his skills repeatedly to his advantage only to realize he isn’t God and that no matter how hard he tries, something has to go wrong…..

Now I must admit I was in awe of this picture when I first saw it, but after delving into it and giving it a re-watch my opinion slightly changed. “The Butterfly Effect” was primarily panned because it is difficult to digest how a person can go back in time and change events simply upon reading some journal notes! Secondly it seems the “effect” seems to influence only Evan and his friends’ eventual outcomes, while the rest of the world remains status quo! This refers to some of the recurring characters in Evan’s life as well. And after a certain point of time, the proceedings turn far too contrived just to take the screenplay to its conclusion, especially in a scene in which Evan ends up in prison!

That said, In spite of the aforementioned holes in the narrative, this film manages to grip you from the start with its deftly shot frames and taut pacing. The initial episodes from Evan’s childhood are somewhat disturbing for any child to handle and one can instantly gather why some children turn out the way they do. The scenes in the University, replete with the Fraternities and the Sororities much resemble a typical college romance film but not for long as the narrative twists and turns several times along the way! There are quite a few surprises in store, and plenty of interesting ones at that. 

The background score by Michael Suby is excellent and as far as the acting is concerned, some known faces like Eric Stoltz, Elden Henson and Amy Smart appear and do a decent job. But it is Ashton Kutcher’s film all the way as he delivers what could be the best performance I’ve ever seen from him! Yes…no matter how much you like to bash him, he is really good in this, if not great, and it is nice to see him do a serious role rather than the usual slapstick buffoonery he resorts to.

Barring some holes and inconsistencies in the concept presented in “The Butterfly Effect”, the film written and directed by Eric Bress and J. Mackye Gruber is an enjoyable thriller that succeeded in showing me a good time. I sure do hope it has the same effect on you folks!

Score: 8/10.