The Butterfly Effect 2 is a direct-to-video release, and for good reason. While the original film was a surprise hit back in 2004, this sequel is nothing more than a quick cash-in.
At least, that’s what I thought I’d be writing for this review. I definitely had low expectations for this film, especially since while I’ve heard good things about the original, I’ve yet to see it, and I still question its somewhat-acclaimed reputation. So surely this sequel must be a piece of junk, right? But it’s not.
Certainly, The Butterfly Effect 2 has its flaws. The writing is hit-and-mostly-miss, the story begins to fail about 20 minutes before the end, and there is a major plot hole that will probably leave you less than satisfied. However, despite these problems, there is enjoyment to be found in this film. For one, the cast provides fairly solid performances, with Eric Lively (The Breed) and Erica Durance (Smallville) in particular offering up believable characters. Also, the film looks cool, with plenty of cinematographic techniques used to compliment the emotions in the story and to make things interesting when the protagonist is reliving important events.
The film centres around Nick (Eric Lively), a young man who discovers an ability to change the past by jumping back in time. This is the Butterfly Effect. Too bad for Nick that each time he goes back to fix something, like saving the life of his girlfriend (Erica Durance), the future changes for the worse. The message here is don’t play with fate.
Unfortunately for the filmmakers, you also have to be careful when playing with time travel. It’s sticky business trying to keep track of three or four alternate realities, and a mistake here ruins the film’s final surprise. The director tries to explain this one in the commentary, but it doesn’t help, as there’s no way any viewer could remember back to an extremely subtle line that happened 40 minutes ago to make sense of the plot twist.
Another weak aspect of this movie is that, for a psychological thriller, it just doesn’t hit hard enough. Nick is supposed to be having a nightmarish experience and it looks like he is, but it doesn’t actually feel that bad. I think that’s because his ability always gives him an out of any dire situation, and even when things go really awry at the end, it only seems like he’s made some bad choices. If his descent into madness was handled better, the movie might have had a stronger impact.
Ultimately, this is a flawed film, but there’s enough to appreciate that it’d be worth tuning in for on a rainy Friday night.
So how’s the DVD?
The Butterfly Effect 2 is presented on a single disc, in 1.85:1 (16×9) widescreen format. This is a good looking film; the transfer is sharp, clear of distorting artifacts, and the colours appear natural. With a lot of cool, attractive imagery, it’s nice to see a solid transfer.
The menus are animated with music.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 mix represents another job done well. There’s good use of the surround channels on each of the time jumps Nick takes, and the effects get more pronounced as the story progresses. Dialogue is always clear, and the levels are nicely balanced.
Audio is also offered in English Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround, and both English and Spanish subtitles are available.
The bonus material includes just an audio commentary and a making-of featurette.
The audio commentary features director John R. Leonetti and co-producer Michael Stirling, who seldom speaks. Someone should explain to this guy what a commentary is supposed to be. At least the director has a lot to say, and he’s pretty good about discussing his decisions for how scenes were shot, and how things like the weather influenced significant changes to the film. I think Leonetti is a bit too appreciative of the film, but I guess he’s proud of his work.
The making-of featurette is called Altering Reality: On the Set of The Butterfly Effect 2. It runs about 15 minutes, and offers some fairly interesting insight about the film’s production. They apparently shot it in about 20 days, which is a really tight schedule, and the cast and crew interviews speak to the influence that had on the whole process. My favourite tidbit is the story about how they dealt with the fog in January in Vancouver.
The Butterfly Effect 2 is a good-looking, somewhat enjoyable film, but its flaws are too big to ignore. It’s presented on a fine DVD, with good video and audio, and a couple of interesting special features. If you’re a fan of the original’s concept, you might want to rent this one, but otherwise just tune in when it hits cable.