When will these people ever learn? You can't keep going back in time and altering the future without messing everything up. Ashton Kutcher and Eric Lively learned that the hard way in the first two "Butterfly Effect" films. Why did no one think to warn Chris Carmack, the star of "The Butterfly Effect 3: Revelations"? I should think somebody would have, seeing as this ability to jump through time is shared by a surprising number of people. But alas, no one did. Too bad--this is such a dumb movie, so full of holes, so predictable, so lacking any degree of depth or complexity. It's a supernatural thriller that doesn't thrill, a needlessly twisted mystery that builds itself on a premise so weak that I'm amazed it's reached its third chapter.
Those of you who haven't seen the original 2004 film or its direct-to-DVD sequel can rest easy; aside from the whole time-travel gimmick, this new film stands completely alone. This applies to its faults as much as it applies to its plot, which involves a young man from Detroit named Sam Reed (Carmack), who uses his jumping ability to assist the police in catching criminals. How exactly is he able to jump? Not by looking at the pages of a journal, as Kutcher did in the first film, but by lying in a tub full of ice water and thinking about specific dates and times. When he's informed that the man currently behind bars for the murder of his high school sweetheart is innocent, he takes it upon himself to keep going back in time to discover the real killer. There will, of course, be a few unintended side effects, none more problematic than the creation of a serial murder known as the Pontiac Killer, who keeps reappearing in all subsequent jumps and makes Sam look like the primary suspect.
There are so many implausible aspects to this story that I don't know where to begin. Let's start with Sam's sister, Jenna (Rachel Miner). Many years ago, when Sam was only a teenager, Jenna died in a house fire; Sam took care of this by jumping back and saving her, not realizing that the tradeoff would be the death of his parents. Every time Sam makes a jump, Jenna's entire personality is completely altered, going from moody to orderly to domestic. What doesn't change, however, is her remembering the fact that Sam has the ability to jump. It seems unlikely until we reach the end, when a plot twist conveniently explains it away. The twist itself is annoyingly predictable, but the ramifications of the twist are impossible to explain, probably because they don't make any sense.
Herein lies my biggest problem with time travel stories: They're so focused on being clever, but they rarely take plausible ideas into consideration. Sam has altered the future so many times, yet he maintains the exact same relationships, and some even remember what he's able to do. If he keeps going back into the past, isn't it conceivable that certain people will not know of his ability once he returns to the present? Isn't it also conceivable that certain people won't even remember who he is? And why is it that everyone remembers him, yet he awakens in a new present with no knowledge of what life he's now leading? There are those who live for this kind of storytelling, but to be blunt, I have absolutely no idea why. How can anyone watch these kinds of films without bothering to examine the most logical of details? I'm well aware that time travel as a concept doesn't bother too much with logic, but I hold it as an item of faith that a few basic ideas must linger somewhere beneath the surface.
But that only describes a confusing film, not necessarily a bad one. "The Butterfly Effect 3" manages to be both, mostly due to the performances, which are no better and no worse than you'd expect from the average high school production. Carmack might have had a chance to actually perform were it not for his role, which is uninteresting in spite of the ability to jump. Sam is not unlike a lot of brooding young men in stories like this, always having something to prove, never stopping to consider the consequences of his actions. It sounds deep and meaningful, but it really isn't, especially in a story this convoluted. And as for Miner, she does the best given the material, although that isn't saying much since her character is nothing more than a horror movie stereotype. I mean this in more ways than one, but to elaborate would give too much away.
If I examine this movie any closer, I fear my head will explode. "The Butterfly Effect 3: Revelations" is so misguided that I'm not sure director Seth Grossman or writer Holly Brix know how a supernatural thriller works. The genre title alone pretty much says it all--the audience is supposed to be thrilled. When you have a story that relies on cliché characters and an obvious plot twist, you have an unimaginative rehash, not a thriller. And covering up mistakes with complicated notions of time travel isn't going to help much. I recently had a very frustrating experience watching "Timecrimes," a science fiction thriller from Spain that dealt with the implications of time travel; as unpleasant as it was to watch, at least it was able to build suspense. And the story was at least somewhat original. If you're going to watch a bad movie about ripping a hole in the space-time continuum, make sure you choose one with some sense of style.
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