The film that the critics seem to hate for reasons I don’t get
Finally I watched The Butterfly Effect. I was about time. I’ve been pointed to it a number of times over the last year by blog readers. They know how much I love movies about time travelling and alternative timelines, titles such as Source Code, Timecrimes, Looper, Mr Nobody and Run Lola Run. They figured that this would be right up my alley. And it turned out they were right, once again.
I’ve seen similar ideas in other movies: that if you make a little change in the past, you can create a future that is completely different, in ways you didn’t imagine. The difference this time is that it’s way darker. Several events in the past that have formed the main character into who is now, and each one of those turning points in his life are immensely sad and depressing.
Thankfully the protagonist suffers from blackouts and memory losses a lot of the time, so most of the times the worst parts are cut out. You only see them in your imagination, which is bad enough as it is.
Does it sound confusing? Good! That’s how I want to keep it. I don’t want to go into details about the memory losses or about the exact mechanisms of the time tempering. One reason is to avoid spoiling anything. I spent the first half hour being rather confused about what was going on before the pieces started to fall into place and I want others to have the chance to experience the same thing.
The other reason is that I’m not completely sure of what happens, at least not in terms of science and logic. Not that it bothered me. It’s the kind of film where suspension of disbelief is essential, and to me it came easy. I was too wrapped up in the poor guy’s situation, hoping he’d find a resolution, to raise any objections about how and why this happened in the first place.
Little love from critics
Strangely enough it seems as if this film has gotten very little love in the past. I took a quick glance at the reviews from its release and found that Rolling Stone gave it a 1 of 4 stars rating, claiming that “Nothing can save this repetitive bore”. Robert Ebert didn’t fall for it either: “There’s so much flashing forward and backward, so many spins of fate, so many chapters in the journals, that after awhile I felt that I, as well as time, was being jerked around. “Bad filmmaking meets bad science and bad philosophy”, says A.V. Club, giving it a C. And so on.
I suppose not all film critics are as geeky and fascinated by time travel sci-fi as I am. I wear a different pair of glasses that help me appreciate this type of movies more than most other people.
It feels a bit unfair though that this film should be stuck at 33 percent at Rotten Tomatoes. Someone ought to do something about it. What if I could go back in time and convince them to change their views on this film? What effect would it have? The directors went for TV instead of movies. Could a warmer critical reception have changed their careers?
I need to work a bit more on this plan to make sure there aren’t any negative side effects. But if you wake up one morning and notice that the rating all of a sudden has shot up to 80 percent, you know who’s responsible.
The Butterfly Effect (Eric Bress and J.Mackye Guber, US 2004) My rating: 4/5