The Butterfly Effect appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this double-sided DVD-14; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. For the most part, the picture looked fine, with only some small concerns.
Sharpness mostly came across strongly. In general, the movie appeared nicely distinct and accurate. A few signs of softness popped up in wide shots, but not too many. Jagged edges and moiré effects caused no issues, but I did detect some light edge enhancement at times. Source defects offered no problems, as I noticed no specks, marks or other issues. It featured some intentional grain at times, but that was it.
Effect featured a stylized palette. At times, colors became intentionally cold and stark, whereas other times, the hues were made to seem oversaturated and dense. The DVD handled the various gradations well, as the tones always came across as solid and appropriately defined. Black levels seemed deep and dark, while shadow detail was clear and sensibly heavy without excessive thickness. Overall, Effect presented a good image.
The Butterfly Effect also offered a positive auditory experience. The DVD included both Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 soundtracks. I thought the pair seemed virtually identical, as I noticed no variations between the two.
The soundfield seemed fairly heavily oriented toward the front spectrum, but it broadened nicely when necessary. The forward channels showed fine stereo imaging for the score, and they also provided a good sense of general atmosphere. Really, that attitude dominated Effect. Not many scenes featured active use of the surrounds; those elements mostly appeared during Evan’s flashbacks, which became very involving. Instead, the soundtrack more strongly favored a creepy ambience meant to accentuate the movie’s dark tone.
Audio quality appeared good. Dialogue always remained natural and distinct, though a smidgen of edginess occasionally affected the lines. Music seemed bright and vivid, and the score showed solid dynamics and clarity. Effects also came across as accurate and vibrant, and the whole track evidenced solid low-end response at times. When appropriate, the flick demonstrated a very strong bass punch that lacked any boominess or distortion. Ultimately, the mix for Effect failed to make “A”-level due to its relative lack of multichannel ambition, but the track seemed pleasing nonetheless.
In The Butterfly Effect we find the newest release in New Line’s well-regarded “infinifilm” line. The upcoming segment of the review will discuss the basics of the infinifilm format. If you already feel acquainted with it – or just don’t care to read my ramblings about it – skip ahead to the point where you see some underlined text; that will note the start of my discussion of the supplements found on Effect.
According to the insert that came with infinifilm DVDs:
An infinifilm DVD is a unique, one-of-a-kind viewer-directed experience. You’re in control of what you watch and when you view it!
Since the infinifilm DVDs disable some normal functions and only intermittently allow others, that statement seems ironic. It also makes little sense; when have I not been able to choose when and what I’d watch on a DVD? As far as I recall, none of my other discs came with a little man who put a gun to my head and forced me to check out certain segments.
Nonetheless, the “infinifilm” does offer a somewhat different form of presentation. From that same booklet blurb, here’s how the studio describes it:
The movie can also be experienced with the infinifilm option enabled, allowing you to access content specifically relating to the scenes via pop-up prompts that appear. Explore. Escape. Interact. Take your movie-watching experience to a whole new level. Go Beyond the Movie and discover the fascinating facts and intriguing stories surrounding your favorite films! Afterwards, you are returned to the movie right where you left off.
Once we get past the marketing hyperbole, what does all of this mean? In essence, the infinifilm feature functions along the same line as other “interactive” features that crop up during a movie. Other discs like the special edition of Dogma, Me, Myself and Irene, and Dinosaur used similar functions. When an icon appears onscreen, you press a button and get to watch something that relates to that part of the movie.
In the case of the infinifilm titles, this function becomes more extensive. The icon appears more frequently, since it pops up once per infinifilm chapter stop. While the non-infinifilm version offers 22 chapters, the infinifilm edition provides a whopping 40 stops, and different options appear with each one of those.
How useful is all of this? Moderately, I suppose, but it depends on your tolerance for interruptions. All of the materials accessible during the infinifilm edition can also be found in the standard roster of supplements; there doesn’t appear to be anything exclusive to the infinifilm feature. The advantage to accessing these via the infinifilm function stems from the fact that they’ll relate specifically to that section of the movie. It’s a cool way to make the movie more informative and immediate.
However, it could also be a distraction. It’s hard to get involved in a movie when you leave it every couple of minutes to see something else. Ultimately, however, I think the infinifilm concept is a good one. I can’t say that I’d want to use it while I watched a movie, for I think it’d disrupt the film too much. Nonetheless, I always support additional options, and since I’m not forced to use the feature – and since it makes none of the DVD’s extras exclusive to infinifilm, which would really irritate me – I’m more than happy to see this kind of feature.
One oddity: while the DVD offers menus for both the normal “Select a Scene” and the “infinifilm Select a Scene”, the latter features the same 22 chapter stops. While it’s nice that the disc broke down the sections in a more detailed manner, it makes no sense that 18 of the infinifilm chapters fail to appear.
One annoyance: while the infinifilm process is supposed to make DVDs even more interactive and user-friendly than ever, New Line omitted subtitles on Effect and apparently all other titles in this line. Yes, it offered closed-captioning, but all DVDs really should have at least English subtitles available.
The special features split into two different areas: Beyond the Movie and All Access Pass. Under the Beyond the Movie category we found three elements. The Science and Psychology of the Chaos Theory goes for eight minutes, 58 seconds as it combines video bits to illustrate concepts as well as interviews. We hear from Cal Tech University Professor of Physics Dr. Peter Goldreich, and psychotherapists Dr. John D. Biroc and Constance Kaplan. They discuss the concepts of Chaos Theory as well as its history and offer some examples and the way it works on people. The show provides a soundbite look at the subject, but it seems reasonably informative and interesting.
After this we get The History and Allure of Time Travel. This 13-minute and 23-second piece presents comments from Kaplan, Biroc, Michael Pogorzelski of the Academy Film Archive, and AFI’s Ken Wlaschin. They go into the reasons people take interest in time travel tales as well as examples of those sorts of flicks over the years. They get into details of the genre and provide a decent history of the genre. It’s another basic but good program. (Someone needs to tell Wlaschin that his “favorite” time travel flick isn’t called Bill and Ted’s Exciting Adventure, though.)
”Beyond the Movie” ends with a fact track. This text commentary uses the subtitle area as it provides small factoids that appeared throughout the flick. It covers subjects connected to areas of the film. For example, we learn about psychiatry and time travel in movies, the effects of smoking, the length of a pig’s orgasm and mourning rituals, among other topics.
The material seems sporadically interesting, but the factoids don’t pop up frequently. I doubt many people will want to try to attend to the film itself and read the fact track at the same time, as it could become very distracting, especially since the piece also activates the infinifilm feature, which presents more visuals. On the other hand, if you check out the movie just to examine the subtitles, you’ll feel irritated by the infrequent use of the feature. Chalk this up as a fairly weak text commentary.
Now we head to the All Access Pass, which launches with an audio commentary from directors/writers Eric Bress and J. Mackye Gruber, both of whom sit together for a running, screen-specific chat. Clearly excited about the process, the pair prove lively and engaging. They go into topics that mostly focus on filmmaking elements like visual design and sound elements. You’ll learn that “Miller Red” isn’t a kind of beer, as they point out the symbolism and use of color throughout the movie, and they also get into other ways they manipulate visuals to work for the flick. In addition, we learn about the variations between the director’s cut as well as plenty of notes from the set such as working with actors both leading and minor. A bit too much praise for the people and product pops up, but overall, this feels like an entertaining and informative piece.
Another featurette, The Creative Process runs 17 minutes and 49 seconds as it presents the usual mix of archival materials, movie snippets and interviews. We find notes from Bress, Gruber, producers AJ Dix and Chris Bender, director of photography Matthew F. Leonetti, and actors Ashton Kutcher, Eric Stoltz, Melora Walters and Amy Smart. We hear about how Bress and Gruber connected, origins of the story and its path to the screen, various impressions of the tale, its subject matter, pre-production issues, storyboarding, casting and the actors’ approaches to their roles, the directors’ approach, shooting in a real prison, and fight choreography and stunts.
Though “Process” covers many subjects, it doesn’t offer much depth. A lot of happy talk appears, as we hear how great the directors and actors are. The various subjects fly by so quickly that most issues get reduced to soundbites. Some good tidbits still appear, but this remains a somewhat lackluster and disjointed show.
Next we learn about the flick’s Visual Effects. In this 16-minute and five-second program, we discover info from Bress, Gruber, Leonetti, visual effects supervisor Ralph Maiers, and visual effects coordinator Christopher Elke. They chat about the time-travel visuals, the “butterfly effect”, different visual concepts and their evolution, memory flashes, making Kutcher armless, explosions, and a few other elements. This show presents greater detail than usual for this format, as it gets into the different areas pretty well. It covers most of the topics nicely, and the inclusion of shots that depict the many stages of the effects help make this a solid program.
One complaint with the featurettes relates to the restraints of the infinifilm format. To facilitate the integration of the program into small bits that appear during the movie, the presentation chops up the segments into many bite-sized pieces. The material still works well, but it could definitely flow more smoothly.
Within the Storyboard Gallery, we get a compendium of 11 sequences. These run as side-by-side comparisons, with the boards on the left and the final movie on the right. All together, they run seven minutes and eight seconds. These don’t do much for me, but the presentation seems fine.
In addition to the film’s trailer, we also find a collection of nine deleted/alternate scenes. When viewed via the “Play All” option, they fill six minutes, 32 seconds. One offers an alternate take of a scene, while some others provide minor additions. The most intriguing clips are the two unused endings. These provide sunnier variations on the conclusion featured in the theatrical version and don’t resemble the conclusion seen in the director’s cut.
We can watch the deleted/alternate scenes with or without commentary from Bress and Gruber. They provide some decent details about the snippets and usually tell us why the bits got the boot. Unsurprisingly, the comments about the alternate endings provide the most interesting moments.
For folks with DVD-ROM drives, the fun continues. “Script to Screen” lets you read the original script while you watch the movie; the video runs in a small screen on the left as the text displays on the right half of the screen. In the “Scene Medley”, we find a few options. “Theatrical/Director’s Cut Comparison” lets us see some differences between the two, while “Miller’s Red” highlights the use of color in the film. Finally, “Love in Altered States” gives a montage of those scenes.
The “Commentary Digest” offers a “compact version of the directors commentary featuring selected remarks about the plot, actors, and filmmaking techniques.” Another website refers to this as offering an “enhanced mode”, but since that reviewer makes frequent mistakes, I don’t trust that assessment. The DVD gives us the impression this is simply an abbreviated form of the full commentary and doesn’t allude to anything “enhanced”. Unfortunately, since my computer gives me error messages whenever I try to run the feature – or any of the other video DVD-ROM elements – I can’t confirm what form the content actually takes.
We get a link to the movie’s “Original Website”. This packs the whole site onto the DVD, which makes it nicely easy to access. There’s also a link to the New Line website. The “Photo Gallery” includes 27 bland shots from the flick. “Exclusive infinifilm Content” alludes to bits and pieces that one can access once the DVD officially hits the streets. The “Hot Spot” link also doesn’t work yet.
Critics mostly savaged The Butterfly Effect when it hit theaters, but I frankly don’t see why. I thought the movie was clever, engaging, and daring, as it presented a dark and evocative look at the perils of tampering with the past. The DVD fares well, as it offers very good picture and sound plus a pretty solid package of extras. A genuine surprise, I really liked Effect. If you have a taste for dark thrillers, give it a look.