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Headscratchers: The Butterfly Effect
  • Not gonna enter in the merit of the whole bunch of problems caused by Hollywood trying to do time travel plots. The thing that bugs me the most is about the scene that triggers the whole plot. If you don't remind, Evan's teacher tells his mother that he did a drawing he don't remember doing. Later we learn that he's gone back in past and did it. But here's the thing: the whole plot only works because he's gone back to past while in jail and drawed that thing. But when he's gone back in past, he pierces his hands to show Carlos, the cellmate, he's religious and get his help. Wouldn't piercing your own hands change the whole timeline drastically in some sorts, given it wouldn't go unnoticed that easily? Also, his hands are unhurt for the whole movie, so... what?!
    • I would think it had consequences at the time, but at the "present" it didn't matter much. All the other events seriously affected someone else's life (Saving a woman and her baby, accidentally making your friend kill someone, etc), but that one was pretty much all him. The reason his hands were unhurt for the whole movie was because until then, he hadn't done it in any timeline yet. Since none of the ones before that had him in prison, he never went back in time to do it.
      • Simple question: how was the drawing made, then, if he hasn't got back in time?
      • Welcome to Hollywood Time Travel!
      • Indeed, his time travel is not realistic at all.
    • I still can't understand how Evan's teacher could make such a big deal about the drawing when he PIERCED BOTH HIS HANDS IN FRONT OF EVERYBODY. Evan even called for her by name before he did it, and she looked up just in time to see this. Hell, let's not even get started about how nothing is wrong with Evan's hands at the beginning of the movie, even though all other evidence of his activities at that point in time are present in the opening scenes.
    • Nothing about the film's depiction of time travel is consistent or makes any sense at all. To find a Fan Wank that could adequately make everything fit would require a great deal more mental effort than the film deserves.

  • Assuming that nothing else of significance ever changed, he would still have entered prison already with the stigmata. We wouldn't have seen it that way, but Carlos would have. I don't think the scars would have seemed that amazing unless they were new, so presumably he'd looked at his hands before and understood that the scarrage was "just then" appearing. Unless... he really is that superstitious and gullible, and drops to his knees whenever he meets anyone who's ever had, say, a nailgun accident.
    • My interpretation was that he's starting to get better control of his power, and can apply the changes in a more controlled fashion.
    • He actually explicitly says that the scars "came out of nowhere", which just makes no goddamn sense. According to the movies own rules, he should have jumped into another timeline where he had had the scars all along. And we're back in "where did the picture come from".
    • Why did he bother to draw the picture in the first place? why not just go straight over to the spikes right away?
      • I always figured he time travelled to the point right after he was done with the picture.
    • I think he said something like, "Here, this will give her something to think about..." as he did the disturbing drawing.
    • Apparently the rules of the movie are if the change to the timeline is small enough, people notice it.

  • And, related to the above: why do the first part of the story considers the "blackouts" were just blackouts, so he didn't actually change anything, but some other blackouts(such as the first, and the one with the knife) actually are caused by him going back to the past? Consistency is asking too much?!
    • My theory is that the black-outs where nothing seems to have happened is him just going back and watching it happen. and then he can go back and change it again later. Like the dynamite in the letter-box
      • Except that he never went back and watched the "Robin Hood Movie" memory without changing it. The movie's just a big Timey-Wimey Ball.
      • Or that they didn't show it so the movie wouldn't be too long.
    • Well of course asking for consistency is too much for this movie.
      • Damn straight!
    • Presumably there are two answers: 1. Just like in Déjà Vu: the current timeline you're seeing isn't the primary timeline, it's one that was already caused by an unseen time-traveler. A future Evan has already discovered his time-travel ability and was messing around with the past. 2. The time travel laws are different depending on whether his actions are supposed to change or not. If he's in a blackout where he can change the past, it is just a normal blackout, but if he's in a blackout where he will create a Stable Time Loop, he will find that he already changed the past.

  • When Evan was in the two alternate futures that were relatively OK (the one where he's a frat boy, and the one where the only problems are that he has no arms and his mom has cancer) couldn't he go back in time again and merely make small ajustments so that the problems (Tommy turning into a psycho, Evan getting blown up) not happen? Admittedly, with the first "good" future he is in a bad situation so he can't really pick where he jumps to, but couldn't he have jumped to the basement scene, delivered the same speech he did the first time except not tell Kayley and Tommy's father to discipline Tommy, and then go back to a future similar to the frat boy one except Tommy's not psychotic? Or he could jump to the mailbox scene and just stay clear of the mailbox.
    • Surprisingly, the writers actually had a pretty logical explanation for this one. He couldn't travel back to the explosion, because he never wrote about it in his journals. After losing his arms, he couldn't, so all he has in that particular reality are his journals before the explosion. And without his journals, he is not capable of time traveling (he doesn't know about the pictures at that point). As for why he feels the need to light the blockbuster in the house instead of somewhere safer in his attempt to destroy it... that's anyone's guess.

  • Also, in the final future of the theatrical version (where everything is alright but Kayley doesn't know who he is) couldn't he have found her online or something and gotten back in contact with her?
    • Take five seconds to think about that. How would you feel if someone you did not know who the hell he was contacted you and knew everything about you?
    • The entire plot of the movie was started by Kayley committing suicide. Once Evan learned he could travel through time, he tried making everything "perfect" as he bragged to his dad. The end of the movie was him learning that his friendship with her cost her her life or happiness in every timeline. She was better off never knowing him, which he came to understand.
    • There's actually a deleted scene where he sees her on the street like in the real ending, except in stead of ignoring her, he introduced himself, and pretends not to know her. It's not exactly like that, because I haven't seen it in a few years, but that's the gist. (Technically, at that point, she and her brother grew up away from Evan, so he didn't know that Kayley)
  • While things at the end seem to work out OK for Evan by simply avoiding ever getting to know Kayley, doesn't this mean that she (and possibly her brother) is going to be abused by her father? Or is abuse OK if it happens to somebody you don't know?
    • You probably didn't watch the film that closely so... spoilers ahead! The reason she stayed with her father was because she wanted to be near Evan. Right before the end, after the last time travel, they show the consequences of the act, and Kaley and her brother move away to live with their mother. So, no, abuse is not OK, so it doesn't happen anymore! (Assuming Kayley and her brother actually didn't see their father again. No visitation rights!)

  • Why does Evan wait until he's in prison before trying to change that timeline? He could have done it when he posted bail, or whenever. Even if he thought he would get off, things were already fucked up...
    • Why did Evan end up in prison in the first place? If I remember the scene correctly, Tommy attacked him first, Evan acted in self defense.
      • Obviously he didn't have a very good lawyer.
      • He first used pepper-spray on Tommy, then he grabbed the bat while he was down and bashed his brains in. I don't know, but that's some very extensive self defense.
      • Yeah, the self-defense argument loses credibility when you're standing over your unconscious attacker and beating him with a baseball bat.
      • To be more precise, self-defense in America is generally "meet force with equal force." Once you've knocked your attacker over, it's time to run your ass off. Stomping on their face while they're down or stabbing them when they come at you unarmed is assault.
    • Evan was, in theory, in "jail" at that time, waiting for his case to be adjudicated but the writers had a clear idea of him being in a "prison" environment and decided to say "To hell with legal procedure".

  • Is it just me or does anyone else find it funny that in one timeline, Tommy (who is a sociopath in every other timeline) is a devout Christian? Is that supposed to imply that absent of one or two traumatic events, his psychological problems manifest themselves as a Christian?
    • It's supposed to imply that without his psychological problems he'd automatically be that Christian. That's part of the trouble with deterministic Freudian Excuse-centered thinking, both when writing fiction and when interpreting real events: it make believes—ironically without using the butterfly effect to explain it—that one single change or fact will predictably cause entire personality overhauls. I have very little doubt that the screenwriter genuinely thought that abuse automatically makes you evil and a smaller amount of misfortune can turn someone into a wholesome ideal WASP. That is depressingly common thinking these days.
    • If you want to spin it more positively, you could just as easily see it as "He found religion, and it kept him sane".
      • I bought it. He had an intense personality (his psychotic actions are all prompted by the idea that Evan and Kayley becoming a couple will mean his bond with his sister will be weakened, and in that reality, she's all he has. In the religious reality, Evan and Kayley are not a couple, and although Kayley is dating Lenny, Tommy's friendship with Evan and Lenny is visibly much stronger than the other realities, probably due to him saving the lady and her baby and proving that he's not 100% twisted. So he can withstand her having an independent life.) and an abusive history, both of which would make him a prime candidate for someone who goes full-whack into a belief system.

  • In the alternate ending, Evan strangles himself with his own umbilical cord in utero. Since he's not breathing air yet, would wrapping his umbilical cord around his neck actually do anything other than force the doctors to perform a Caesarian on his mother? How the hell would a fetus have the kind of muscle power to strangle itself anyway? Also, IMHO, the theatrical ending is way better because (1) it doesn't make me want to eat a gun, and (2) Evan manages to accomplish the exact same thing without having to kill himself, which should have been his plan all along. Am I the only one?
    • The umbilical cord around the neck would limit the supply of blood to the brain, so yes, it would work. I do agree with the problem of having the strength (and coordination) to accomplish this feat.
    • Fetuses in the real world die like this all the time, and I think the emergency c-section would be explained away by the suddenness with which he did it - he went from just fine to strangling in 2 seconds flat. But yeah, it's implausible that a fetus would be able to strangle himself on purpose like that.
    • Also, I thought he could only time travel if he had a journal entry from then. Are you telling me he kept a journal in his mother's womb??
      • How I understood it was that reading the journal entries gave Evan a specific time to focus on, since he had little control over his abilities. By the end of the film he could travel at will to any period he wanted. Strangling himself as a fetus is still silly, but it made (enough) sense to me regarding how he jumped back there in the first place.
      • His father jumped using photographs, so he realised that you just needed something dealing with a set time to jump to it, so he used his birth video. It's spelled out in the film.
    • Of course, nothing could ever justify that Evan would have created a major Grandfather Paradox here. If Evan went back in time and killed himself in his mother's womb, then Evan was never born so he could grow up and go back in time, which means he'd have lived to go back in time and kill himself in his mother's womb, which means he was never born so he could go back in time, which means he lived to go back in time, which means he was never born, which means he lived, which means he was never born, which means he lived...
      • No, because there's no future Evan now. An Evan from an alternate future went back and killed himself in the womb. He was a temporal artifact of the old future, it's not kill-your-past-self-and-you-fade-away time travel.

  • At the very end, does Evan remember anything that happened, or is he basically tabula rasa at that point? The ending seems like it could go either way.
    • He remembers. The first thing he says when he wakes up from his nosebleed is "Where's Kayleigh?" He burns his journals, which he would have no reason to do unless he remembered time traveling. And he stops and looks visibly shocked when he passes Kayleigh on the street, and you can see his dilemma about whether or not to go talk to her.

  • Why do people like the alternate ending anyway? It makes the whole movie a waste of time. At least in the real ending, he could make sure that everyone's fate turned out okay and burn his journals.
    • The alternate ending was sad, it turned the film into an interesting tragedy; it was saying that no matter what he did, he would screw up the lives of the people he cared about just by existing. The theatrical ending was the normal Hollywood schlock that completely eradicates the drama. Things rarely work out well—and, often, it really does seem like sometimes someone will suffer no matter what you do. It's nice to see a film examine that instead of pander to the people who want nothing more than to eat popcorn and waste a couple hours. It's a more interesting story, too.
    • Except that it cancels out any effect it might have had since it means that none of the film occurred even in-universe. Stupid Reset Button cop-out, we meet again....
      • It still all occurred, just in a different timeline.
    • Personally, I find "doing things in the womb" stuff unbearably silly. The X-Men comic did that with Professor Xavier, and I found it silly then too. I wouldn't be surprised if test audiences and/or execs shared my opinion.

  • Okay, so here's my understanding of Kutcher's power: Blackouts act like bookmarks in time he can travel back to. Each blackout is during a significant event that changes things in a big way. He can freely travel backwards in time to any journal entry (and thus any blackout). My question is, instead of going all the way back, changing one thing, and then going all the way forward to the present again, why didn't he travel to the beginning of his childhood, ensure that he had a journal entry for every day of his life, and then just take The Slow Path (ie: just grow up normally). He would have the power to fine-tune his existence and make sure he and Kayley got to adulthood safely.
    • And why not leave himself a note at the same time? "Hey, man, here's what happened when you blacked out. Also, you have special powers that allow you to travel back in time as yourself, but you have to make journal entries."
    • I don't think the blackouts were bookmarks in time; I think the blackouts were the result of his time traveling - every time he chose to go back in time, he blacked out and didn't remember the incident because an Evan from a different timeline took over.

  • Surprised no one mentioned this earlier. It is mentioned a couple times that Evan's time traveling damages his brain because of the absurd amount of memories. This gets to the point where he looks like a zombie in the second-to-last universe. Yet he looks perfectly healthy in the (true) ending. What gives?
    • Because in the first timeline, he's making changes upon changes, editing things that have already been edited, and layering the entire process. It's sort of like trying to fix a blanket with holes in it using fabric that doesn't match. By the end, you get an ugly, patchwork quilt. What he did in the ending was completely change his entire life. In essence, he threw out the patchwork blanket and got a new one.
    • My interpretation is that he was only pretending to be zombie-like in the second-to-last universe so that his mother and the doctor didn't take him seriously or think anything was unusual about him asking for the home movies right after he was told about his father's photo albums. Plus, he only seems zombie-like in that one scene, inside the doctor's office; the rest of the time, he seems frantic and angry, but not brain damaged.

  • Why does nobody hold Kayleigh and Tommy's father responsible for everyone's misery? He sexually abused them (and possibly Evan as well) for crying out loud. Yet the movie seems to place the blame for everyone's misfortune entirely on Evan existing, ignoring the fact that there was nothing he could have done to stop Kayleigh's father before he discovered his Time Travel abilities. I know, there's The Reveal that Kayleigh only chose to stay with her father because she liked Evan, but blaming Evan for the consequences of that (since he had absolutely no way of knowing) seems loaded with Unfortunate Implications. If anything, he was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.
    • I never thought the movie was blaming Evan for everyone's problems (theatrical cut only). It's just that he couldn't reliably change Mr. Miller and could only control his own actions. Keeping Kayleigh away from him meant keeping her away from her abusive father, so making sure they never became friends was more of a Heroic Sacrifice than a result of Evan messing up everyone's lives without that change. He was protecting her from her father, not from himself.

  • Out of all of the crapsack timelines Evan got himself into, I have to wonder about the frat boy one, where Kayleigh is okay and happy and they're together. Everything seemed great and to be going well until Tommy appeared and then Evan killed him, making it so Evan pretty much ruined a perfectly good timeline for himself. My question is, why didn't he just go back in time to a day or two before and stop himself from killing Evan after he'd pepper sprayed him to the ground? Sure, maybe Tommy wouldn't have been very well off, but it would have been the most acceptable timeline that doesn't end in Evan removing himself from their lives.

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