The Butterfly Effect

Not Really Recommended. An interesting take on the Chaos theory notion that the smallest change in a sequence can result in major ramifications down the road. The example often quoted by Chaos theoreticians: A butterfly flapping its wings can result in a hurricane on the other side of the world. This movie is a strong embodiment of that idea with a corresponding caution about man’s inability to control his destiny. Ashton Kutcher plays Evan, a young man who discovers an ability to travel back in time through reading his journals written throughout his troubled early life. He starts to go back in time in order to right some wrongs and save people he loves, only to result in either worse lives for them or for others around them. A problem I had with it is that the storytellers gave him such a harsh and dysfunctional family and neighborhood that it was hard to believe. A local pedophile child-abuser with a son who becomes a killer and a daughter who is ruined psychologically is technically feasible, but it just all seemed too extreme to relate to, it caused a disconnect in my suspension of disbelief. I liked the multidimensional display of how child abuse destroys people in different ways, no matter what single thing you may try to change. As Evan goes back to change specific events in his friend’s lives, he realizes that there are so many other events that he could not anticipate, and we see those results with each new “universe” he embarks down. It’s a great idea but not a great movie. Secondly, the story was very casual about sexual promiscuity in the lead characters. It is interesting to note that the storytellers had no clue about the fact that the fornication they celebrate in the “good versions” of the characters’ lives, is just as linked, in reality, to dysfunctional values, experiences, and poor choices as every other dysfunction in the movie. In some ways, the most destructive dysfunctions of all are those which are not even considered problematic, the ones that are assumed as good by society, and then cause the turmoil in people’s hearts when they can’t understand why their lives are so broken or empty. As C.S. Lewis said, “We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honor and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful.” One strong moral component that I thought was a missed opportunity was that in one of the “many worlds” that Evan “creates,” all his friends are happy and well-adjusted, but HE is a quadrapalegic. He decides to kill himself because he is afraid of going back and messing it all up again. But this is an act of self-pity, not heroism. Okay, that would be a first reaction, but why couldn’t he have come to the conclusion that he must suffer for the sake of other’s happiness, and bear up under life’s trials? That would have been profound. Instead the filmmakers chose to have Evan discover that his mother turns out to be the one who is suffering, which justifies going back one more time to try to save her as well. The Butterfly Effect is a great idea, but not a great movie.

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