Quick story: After the complete FAIL that was Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace 3D, I felt like my day was ruined. However, I had to pick up some stuff on my way home…and the temptation was too great…that’s right, folks, I ended up buying Drive on Blu-ray; single-handedly saved my day.
ANYWAY (that was some tangent, huh?), a film I had the very distinct pleasure of seeing last Tuesday night was Chronicle. And I must say, I have quite a few things to say about this one. Click on the link below to read my full review.
I’m sure that everyone has, at one point or another, had the protypical “superhero” dream or fantasy. As our society is inundated with the concept of a “superhero” and having “superpowers” (whether through books, comics, films, etc.), it’s not hard to imagine what it would be like – having super-strength like Superman, or lightning speed like The Flash, or the ability to heal yourself like Wolverine. Hell, even Batman (who doesn’t have any powers, per se) still has a collection of super-awesome gadgets at his disposal to add to his overall super-awesomeness. But, for the most part, these stories are pretty formulaic – something happens to guy (or gal) that gives them powers – said person has trouble accepting said powers – some evildoer threatens a city/the world – superperson comes to accept his/her “gifts” and uses them to defeat said evildoer – superperson becomes a permanent “911” whenever the city/the world is in danger. There really hasn’t been a superhero story that has strayed too far from this formula (as far as I can remember). Enter Chronicle.
To sum up the primary plot – Andrew (played by newcomer Dane DeHaan) has taken up the hobby of recording his life (more out of a desire to capture the beatings his drunk father bestows upon him) and is the protypical social outcast. His best friend is his cousin, Matt (played by newcomer Alex Russell) who appears to merely tolerate his cousin’s presence, rather then embrace him as a friend. Matt’s best friend is Steve (played by newcomer Michael B. Jordan – let the jokes commence…), the prototypical popular kid, who’s also running for senior class president. At a rave party, the three come across a hole in the middle of the woods. Being the curious cats that they are, they decide to investigate said hole and jump inside. Eventually, using the lights of their iPhones as well as Andrew’s camera light, they come across this weird crystal thing and – about 30 seconds later – start getting nosebleeds and collapse from shock before the camera cuts to (presumably) the next day, where they conduct an experiment for the camera that ends with Andrew stopping a baseball in mid-air microseconds before it strikes his head. More hijinks ensue between the three friends, including levitating a leaf-blower to blow up some cheerleaders’ skirts, and levitating a teddy bear in front of a little girl inside a store (and, as a result, scarring her for life…at least that’s what I assume happens). Basically, stuff we expect kids with superpowers would do. However, as the old saying goes, “it takes one rotten apple to ruin the bunch” and before we know it, the fun and games are over.
I have to say upfront that, overall, I really enjoyed this film. After the initial “getting to know you” phase, the narrative really becomes somewhat of a Shakespearean tragedy. Which is quite an achievement seeing as how the first 1/3 of the film really doesn’t drop any hints that it’s going to go in this direction. In the end, one of our protagonists (I won’t say who, but based on my quick plot summary above, it isn’t hard to guess) succombs to his rage and newfound power in a way that would make Emperor Palpatine proud. And while this is typically the stuff that villians are made of, the film spins it in a way that makes said character come off very sympathetic to the point where we understand why he “turned to the Dark Side” (think Magneto’s character in X-Men: First Class). While all three characters are given equal time throughout the film, I feel that this character was given special attention to emphasize his “rise” and eventual “fall” from grace (hint: remember the “apex predator” scene).
Not only did I enjoy the story itself, but the acting – seriously, for a film that had ALL their leads as newcomers, the acting was pretty damn good (especially Dane DeHaan as Andrew; guy practically steals the entire show). In my opinion, the acting in Chronicle could rival half of 2011’s releases in that department. Another aspect that I liked was the use of the camera in telling the story. While this is hardly the first time that a film is being told in the documentary “found footage” style ala The Blair Witch Project, I thought that the camerawork here is some of the most innovative SINCE Blair Witch (a department where the Paranormal Activity franchise has been severely lacking these days). An example of this is having another character, Casey (played by Ashley Hinshaw) filming for her video blog – and having her interact with the current cameraholder (whomever that is), thus getting around the genre’s setback of never seeing the facial expression of the cameraholder. Not only do we get story perspective from Casey’s camera, but from various security cameras and phone cameras (especially in the final climactic scenes). Finally, Andrew doesn’t physically hold the camera – he levitates it, thereby avoiding the shakycam that many people hate and giving it a more steady feel. Despite this innovation, it still suffers from the main criticism I have about this whole genre – the characters film events that normally would NOT be filmed (example: walking down the stairs, the chaos at the end). It’s kinda hard to justify someone (won’t say who) worrying more about getting everything that’s happening captured on camera instead of, I dunno, the fucking cops trying to kill him/her. But I feel that the great innovations and work-arounds used here outweigh this criticism in spades, still making it enjoyable to watch.
However, I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the other two problems I had with this film (*minor spoilers to follow – if you don’t want to know, skip down to the Conclusion*). The first (and most glaring) is what I perceive as a major plot hole that isn’t evident until the climactic showdown – the “Superman-like” imperviousness to pain. Throughout the film, we see that all three guys have the same two powers – telekinesis and flying; NO OTHER ABILITY is ever showcased. So at the climax of the film, one of the characters (the evil one, obviously) decides to hurl a bus DIRECTLY at another character. Now, from the evidence presented throughout the film beforehand, we have every reason to believe that this guy was just fucking crushed to death. However, not 30 seconds later, he comes back flying and engages in a fight with bus guy. Like nothing had just happened. Like a bus hadn’t just struck him in the face and drove him into the side of a building. And THAT’S when my second criticism begins – now that it’s established that these guys are pretty much Superman, they’re able to get away with a lot of shit. Don’t get me wrong, though – these sequences are very exciting and keep you glued to the screen. Nonetheless, the ending sequence comes off very cartoony in nature (crashing through walls, helicopters, etc.). The film lost some authenticity with these sequences, but the action itself and how it pertained to the story was so great and engaging that, for the most part, I didn’t mind.
-Better acting than there had any right to be
-Fun action sequences
-Exceptional camerawork (as far as this genre goes)
-Falls victim to same flaw of “found footage” films
-BIG plot hole
-As a result of above criticism, action sequences lose authenticity
FINAL SCORE: *** ½ (3.5/5)
And that’ll do it. As always, any questions, comments, or feedback in general, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave a comment in the comments section below.
With the posting of this review, my “3 Reviews in 3 Days” weekend comes to an end. Not only am I pleased with the results, I’m even more pleased that I actually posted everything on time 🙂
If you missed it, here are my reviews from the last two days – The Grey and Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace 3D.
Adolfo and I are getting ready for “OSCAR-MANIA, Part 2” – which WILL record on Thursday night for a Friday posting.
Until next time, I’m out!
Review – Chronicle (2012)
Cinephile extraordinaire, a budding filmmaker, and host of Forced Perspective. A resident of NY/NJ, he spends most of his time looking for new movies to watch and learning the craft of filmmaking. You’ve probably also seen him hanging around Madison Square Garden and Yankee Stadium at some point. If you see him approach your movie theater, be sure to let him in – he’s the guy in the Yankees cap!