Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Film Review: Chronicle

For all those comic book and super hero aficionados out there, the idea of an origin story can be pretty tiresome, but in the low key Chronicle, first time director Josh Trank and screenwriter Max Landis (neither one with much under their respective belts), take the idea of the super hero origin story and give it a (somewhat) fresh new kick in the pants.  The story of three teenagers - Andrew, an outcast and fodder for bullies; Matt, a middle-of-the-road kinda guy who may be a bit too smart for his own good; and Steve, a jock and star of the school - who stumble across an underground cavern and are suddenly endowed with the power of telekinesis, Chronicle never tries to delve into the inherent supernatural aspect of this story.  The story just is. 

We are never given any answers as to why or how any of this happens, we are just thrown into the so-called pot and led along the path of discovery as these three teens go from goofy high school high jinks to accidental destruction to inevitable power-hungry villainy.  We do not need to know how this came about, for it is what happens to these three kids that is the crux of our story.  These are not superheroes in funny costumes fighting supervillains for the fate of mankind.  These kids never even think about such things (I on the other hand would do nothing but).  They are just trying to live.  Trank's film is less a superhero or sci-fi movie and much more a coming-of-age story.  More than trying to hone their new found powers, which they do with relative ease, especially the ever-increasingly unstable Andrew, these are kids who are trying to find their way in the world.  A world with or with the power of telekinesis.

The movie is told in the style of found footage cinema, which is a true hit or miss kind of sub-genre (more miss than hit I must say), but it works in the case of this particular film.  We see only what is filmed, either by Andrew's seemingly omnipresent camera or surveillance videos or by the camera of a a young woman whose only purpose in the film seems to be as a convenient chronicler of all those things that happen when Andrew is not around.  We do not need to see any more.  We do not need the backgrounds, the whys, whatfors and hows of all that has transpired.  Trank's film is whittled down to just the basic necessities of filmic life.  We watch as these teens grow closer to each other , becoming unexpected friends.  We watch as their powers become stronger and mere silly pranks are no longer enough.  We watch as their world, especially the timid, weak Andrew, grows into something none of them ever imagined.  We watch as Andrew, through constant bullying, a dying mother, a bastard of a father, grows angrier and angrier, his power growing stronger than the others, until he eventually blows to quite inevitably tragic circumstances.

Now this trimmed down style works as long as that is what you are looking for.  For those unwilling to compromise and step away from the often overblown style of superhero movies (and that is not a criticism for I too enjoy the overblown sense of a superhero movie, and actually prefer mine that way) Chronicle will seem, like Andrew at first, timid and weak.  But for those who can see both sides of a coin (do these people still exist?), Chronicle's slimmed down narrative (a somewhat reality TV kind of superhero movie, but without the ridiculous preening that usually goes with such) will surely pay off.  Granted, the ending is seen about a billion miles away (only a slight exaggeration) and the conflict never quite comes to the fruition it should, and the final two minutes (a seemingly tagged on tag on) is pure saccharine nosebleed kinda stuff, but overall, for a down-sized deconstructive superhero flick, even with its sometimes annoying found footage mannerisms (one still wonders who exactly was filming a lot of the final action sequence), Chronicle ain't half bad.  Ain't half bad indeed.


Alex Jowski said...

I've continued to hear great things about this movie. Great write up!

Kevyn Knox said...

Thanx. I was quite surprised to have liked it as much as I did. said...

I wish they had just shot this film in a more traditional format. Not fleshing out the other two characters was also a mistake. The biggest problem I had with the film was Andrew, possessing enough telekinetic power to fly and knock down walls decides to rob the local gas and sip?

Kevyn Knox said...

Andrew was just a dumb kid (book smart but still quite naive) so his planning is not expected to be the best.

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