This movie is 13 years old now, but I’m still irked about the dissing it gets. I wrote the following shortly after the movie came out.
Most reviews of The Butterfly Effect have focussed on the same gag; we should all laugh at the fact that having Ashton Kutcher read is enough to fracture the space-time continuum. Big yucks. We all know that Joe Public hates change, but the amount of personal venom directed at celebrities who try to do something a little different always surprises me. I’ve never been much of a fan of Kutcher. Dude, Where’s My Car? was funny, and That 70’s Show is one of the least painful sitcoms around, but Punk’d leaves me cold, and I’ll never forgive him for coming between Demi and I. That said, pretty much every review of his new time travel thriller ignores one fact – it’s a really good movie, and he’s bloody good in it. Instead, they concentrate on conflating his other characters with his real personality, then poking fun at how stupid he must be if that’s the case. That’s rather like pointing out someone who you see drunk one night and assuming that they’ve spent their entire life falling over, speaking too loudly and sleeping with really ugly women. Okay, bad example, but you get my point.
The Butterfly Effect is a taught little thriller with a really terrific premise; what would happen if you could go back into your past life and fix the things that went wrong? Now, this has been done before, but as the title implies, small changes soon spiral out of control, and if you change one thing, you change everything, as our hero Evan (Kutcher) discovers. Since Evan’s time travel is limited to the span of his life (and the duration of his childhood journals, the catalyst for his psychic time voyages), we’re not talking about A Sound of Thunder style rewriting of history, but the changes are profound nonetheless. The script and cast pull no punches, as we are first led through the miserable events of Evan’s life before he realises that he can travel in time. Once he starts changing things, the situation rapidly begins to deteriorate, with each shift in history shuffling the lives of those around him like cards in a deck.
Now, I’m a collosal time travel buff. I have perhaps the largest personal library on the subject that I know of, I’ve seen virtually every movie on the topic (for my sins, thank you very much the producers of APEX, which should be banned under the Geneva Convention), and I’m even writing and publishing a time travel role-playing game. I have pretty high standards, and with the exception of one tiny logical flaw in the prison segment (see if you can spot it), this movie nails it. Tense, involving and unpredictable, The Butterfly Effect literally had me on the edge of my seat, making me wonder if any of the reviewers who panned it so badly even bothered to watch.