Ah, time travel. Tricky business, that. Anyone who has ever traveled back in time can tell you that it’s more trouble than it’s worth. Or, er, seen movies about time travel, since I doubt there’s a whole lot of real time travelers out there. (If you are one, can you contact me? There are a couple of things in my past I’d like to, ahem, fix.) But hey, I love me some good time travelin’ stories, which makes the “Butterfly Effect” franchise right up my alley. The series began in 2004 with the feature film “The Butterfly Effect”, which went on to spawn two direct-to-sequels (as of this review), though we will only be looking at the first two entries in the franchise today. (Mostly because I didn’t get a copy of part 3, natch.)
2004’s “The Butterfly Effect” stars Ashton Kutcher, doing a major 180 degrees from his goofy, comedic character from TV’s “That 70s Show”. He plays Evan, a psychology student in college who discovers that he’s able to travel back in time into his younger selves by re-reading entries from his diary. A genetic superpower, if you will, that he makes use of to right some of the more horrendous moments from his childhood and that of his friends, but mostly to save little Kayleigh, the blonde cutie next door who he loves. But that’s easier said than done, since everytime he changes sometime in the past, the future also changes — and not always for the better. In fact, it’s mostly for the worst. Which begs the question: what use is the ability to travel back in time when you only end up screwing things up even more?
Kutcher is fantastic in the lead, and if you were worried that dumbass Michael Kelson might somehow slip through his performance, don’t worry, it rarely happens. (By the way, that’s young Logan Lerman of “Percy Jackson” fame playing one of the young Evans.) “The Butterfly Effect” features some good supporting work, including Melora Walters as Evan’s harried mother, Amy Smart in one of her very best roles, and Eric Stolz completely embracing his inner creep in a small role as the film’s friendly neighborhood pedophile. “The Butterfly Effect” is an at-times hard to sit-through movie, with plenty of bleak moments throughout, but it’s always captivating and the time-travel sequences, while not exactly science-y (that’s a word, right?) still provides plenty of fodder for time paradox geeks. The film suffered from mostly negative reviews when it opened in 2004, but if you have a chance, I recommend giving this Blu-ray release a look.
The new Blu-ray release includes two versions of the film, the original theatrical version and a director’s cut that is about 7 minutes longer, give or take. The Director’s Cut boasts a completely different ending that actually fits the overall tone of the film much better. Though I can see how it probably didn’t play very well with the suits, thus resulting in the semi-happy ending of the theatrical version. The director’s cut also features a full-length audio commentary track by co-writers/directors Eric Bress and J. Mackye Gruber. The boys give a lively outing, supplying plenty of nitty gritty from the making of the film. You also get a series of behind-the-scenes mini-docs, along with almost 7 minutes of deleted scenes (with optional commentary), and of course, the ubiquitous original theatrical trailer.
“The Butterfly Effect 2″ is a direct-to-DVD sequel to the 2004 film, though by no means a direct sequel. Like most direct-to-DVD sequels, the film uses the basic framework of the original to tell its own story. Invariably, its “own story” ends up being identical to the original film, with just the characters and motivations separating them. This is standard procedure with studio-produced sequels that were never meant to see the inside of a movie theater — they are essentially remakes, their sole reason for existence being to take advantage of the bigger budgeted and theatrically released original’s name to turn a small profit. That may be a tad mean, but it’s unfortunately true.
“The Butterfly Effect 2″ must have done enough business for the studio to make a second direct-to-DVD sequel just three years later. I honestly have no idea how that’s possible, because “The Butterfly Effect 2″ is pretty, well, dull stuff. The film’s biggest draw is Erica Durance, who may or may not already be chasing after Superman on the CW TV show “Smallville” back in 2006. (I dunno, I’m not even going to make an effort to confirm or deny this. I’m that bored by everyone and everything involved in this sequel.) The film stars Eric Lively, who makes use of his groovy ability to go back in time when the love of his life Julie (Durance) bites it early in the film. He saves her, and they live happily ever after. Well, not quite. Turns out, complete happiness is harder to come by. But our guy keeps trying. And failing.
The biggest problem with “The Butterfly Effect 2″ is that the stakes are far too low, and though it mirrors the Kutcher character’s quest from the original movie in that respect, you just don’t feel the same kind of urgency and consequences in Nick’s plight. The film had an extremely short shooting schedule and small budget, so it’s hard to really fault it too much for not going farther. Then again, am I supposed to take those things into account when reviewing a movie? I probably should, and most of the time I do, to be perfectly honest with you. Then again, if I had purchased this Blu-ray, I might not care about all that behind-the-scenes stuff. On the bright side, if you bought the movie for Erica Durance, you should get your money’s worth. For everyone else, I’d avoid this unless you really, really enjoy the film’s concept of time-travel.
The Blu-ray release features a full-length audio commentary track by director John R. Leonetti and producer Michael Stirling, who assisted in the screenplay. Leonetti dominates the track and provides a reasonably insightful look into the filming of the sequel. I guess it would be better if I had enjoyed the film, but I didn’t, so there you have it. There is a 15-minute making-of special feature called “Altering Reality: On the Set of the Butterfly Effect 2″ that is exactly as it sounds, along with a theatrical trailer. Blu-ray transfer wise, this is a 2006 movie, so it’s not like it had a lot to clean up.