Since HG Wells published his classic science-fiction novel The Time Machine in 1895, time travel has been a concept of intrigue for filmmakers and writers. From Wells' book to contemporary films such as Twelve Monkeys, there have been literally hundreds of books and films in between.
With such a vast history to explore a single idea, time travel in cinema has had a haggard past; for the most part a majority of these films are lame. The Butterfly Effect is no exception. It tries - it tries very hard - but fails to be anything other than an entertaining popcorn movie.
Evan Treborn (Ashton Kutcher) is a Psychology student, who as a child suffered from painful blackouts. As he reads an excerpt from one of his childhood journals, the blackouts start again. Through a flashback we learn that Evan and three friends committed a serious crime with fatal consequences for one of the children involved.
This childhood trauma would force the three surviving children into different directions. By manipulating these blackouts, Evan learns that he can go back to the past and change what happened that fateful day, only to realise that by changing the past he changes the future. After each loss of consciousness Evan wakes up in a different timeline.
Largely known for dating Demi Moore and hosting MTV cult show Punk'd, Ashton Kutcher, hardly an actor with strong credentials, leads the cast in this film of less than A-list actors. Surprisingly Kutcher handles the role rather well, although his performance is a little overdone. It is hardly groundbreaking stuff, but the supporting cast run through the mills with what they got and act competently.
The butterfly effect refers to the philosophical belief that when a butterfly flaps its wings, a hurricane can happen on the other side of the world, thus causing total chaos. In this context, Evan changes one event in the past consequently causing havoc in that timeline, thus altering the future. Time-travel defies the laws of physics - as a result plausibility is a difficult obstacle for filmmakers to manoeuvre around.
Perhaps it's a generalisation to say that their task is to make the audience believe the unbelievable without patronising the viewer and descending into complete absurdity. Unfortunately The Butterfly Effect does not apply to this notion.
The Butterfly Effect, if totally ridiculous, is entertaining enough. It is not as intelligent as it thinks it is. Credit must go to the writers, who also wrote Final Destination 2, for conceiving a story like this and having the confidence - or arrogance - to pursue it to the big screen. As you leave the cinema, ask yourself a question - would you want to go back in time and regain the two hours lost while watching this film?