Butterfly Effect was a convoluted time travel movie in which the hero, Evan Treborn, managed to ruin his own life and the lives of others around him by trying to fix things in the past. It was laced with impossibilities, inconsistent with its own rules, and generally the kind of film that time travel fans love because they believe they can solve it, and keep working at it, despite the fact that it is insoluble. Thus a sequel was made, Butterfly Effect 2, in which a new hero, completely unrelated to the original one, Nick Larson, discovers a similar ability, and so attempts to fix things in his own life, again with disastrous effects. That one managed to find impossibilities that the original missed, as well as repeating several of the problems of its predecessor. So they made a third, Butterfly Effect 3: Revelations, and the question is whether it is as disastrous, temporally, as its predecessors.
This time the time traveler is Sam Reid, who with the advice of a physics professor named Harry Goldburg has adopted two important rules–one that he never changes his own past, and the other that he always has someone supervising his body when he jumps. This is usually his little sister Jenna, who adores him. Together they use his gift to solve unsolved murders, pretending he is a psychic. He leaps back to the times and places of the murders and watches carefully, memorizing the details, so he can find the face in the mug shots and tell the police exactly what happened. As the film opens he has led them to twenty-two killers, and is identifying his twenty-third. We also know that prior to this he made a trip to the past to save Jenna from a fire–the main reason for his adherence to those rules, as his parents died in that fire instead, but he was fifteen at the time and had suffered through Jenna’s funeral. That implies that he already knew he could travel to moments in the past, and therefore that he had already done so. We thus have at least twenty-four trips to the past prior to the opening of the movie, only one of which (the fire) we know in any detail.
As with the other films, the time traveler occupies his own younger body for the duration of his visit. He did not suffer the blackouts of the first film, but we noted there that these were probably a separate symptom of the problem, and noted in the second film that Nick did not have these. Sam, though, does not use photographs or movies or journals, but instead obtains the date, time, and place he is targeting and focuses on these as he loses touch with his present body. That body is in a tub filled with ice water, apparently to prevent him from overheating, and when Jenna is monitoring him he is attached to a couple of leads on his forehead and chest, suggesting that brain and cardiac activity are being monitored.
Things start going wrong, though, when he breaks his rule. A girl he knew in high school comes to see him, Elizabeth Brown, sister to his high school sweetheart Rebecca Brown who was murdered in her bedroom. Lonnie Flennons, whom Rebecca was secretly seeing on the side, has been convicted of the crime, and now a decade later he is about to be executed for it–but Elizabeth has discovered in Rebecca’s diaries enough to cause her to believe someone else killed her sister, and she wants the real killer identified before the wrong person is executed. She offers to hire him.
He quite reasonably but without explanation declines, but it eats at him, and so he changes his mind, deciding that it would not be unreasonable for him to travel to the past and do what he does, watching for the killer so he can identify him. Unfortunately it does not work.
Little more can be said without spoilers, and it will be difficult to follow the series without having seen the film, so we will pick up with the problems next time. The film is marketed as a horror movie, and there are some gory scenes of murders and murder victims along with a couple of gratuitous sex scenes, so it is not for everyone. It is, however, interesting and convoluted, and a lot of that is going to be unraveled quickly in our next article.