Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Chronicle

Directed by Josh Trank.
2012. Rated PG-13, 83 minutes.
Cast:
Dane DeHaan
Alex Russell
Michael B. Jordan
Michael Kelly
Ashley Hinshaw
Anna Wood
Bo Petersen

What would you do if you suddenly developed super powers? In Chronicle, three teenage boys get to find out. There’s Andrew (DeHaan), whom we spend most of our time with. He’s troubled by a dying mother and abusive father. He’s also just decided to start videotaping his life. The only person he spends any time with is his philosophy loving semi-popular cousin Matt (Russell), our second teen. Matt provides the link to the third, the uber-popular Steve (Jordan), who is running for class president and has designs on becoming the real president one day. At a party that Matt drags Andrew to, the boys discover an odd hole in the ground and decide to investigate by climbing down into the thing. While in there, something we’re not sure of happens. The next day, they discover that each of them has suddenly developed telekinesis, the ability to move physical objects using just your mind. They experiment with it, play practical jokes on people and gain in ability as the days pass. All the while, they try to cope with their seemingly limitless power and whether or not they should even use it.

Chronicle avoids one cliché by not giving us the expected moment where they decide to use that power for good and become crime fighters. Instead, they react as teenage boys might be expected to. They do dumb stuff. One, Andrew, even lets his anger get the best of him and causes harm to a regular joe. This event starts his downward spiral into misplaced, and eventually, extreme aggression, fully taking advantage of his new abilities. He becomes our villain.

We watch friendships grow and deteriorate. Their relationships go through sudden shifts based on Andrew’s whims. The movie does the same and is better for it. After all, teenagers are erratic. Those going through something beyond the normal changes we all deal with are even more inconsistent. Why shouldn’t a movie about high school boys with extraordinary circumstances feel like a rollercoaster?



Another plus is a truthful sense of wonderment by the guys of their new abilities. Too often, in films, the newly empowered are only briefly amazed at what they can now do and off they go down the path to heroism. There is no psychological effect on these people. They easily ascend to their positions as greater than thou. Where a few get it right, Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, Spider-Man 2 before it and the first two X-Men flicks before that, is we truly get a sense of the burden placed upon these people when they take the mantle of “hero”. Chronicle isn’t quite on the level of those because the idea of working for the greater good isn’t introduced until very late and only as a necessity. However, Andrew’s new powers combine with his tumultuous home life to create a tax on his psyche. Therefore, what he does is a believable representation of cause and effect.

Most of this movie’s issues are superficial ones that pile a little too high. Occasionally, our special fx aren’t always special. From time to time, things look just a tad off. It’s usually not egregious, but enough to be noticeable. More of an issue is the same thing plaguing the “found footage” sub-genre since its inception with The Blair Witch Project. Someone always has to carry the camera. Though handled creatively, here, there are still times when it feels unnatural, snatching us out of an otherwise immersive movie.

Flaws and all, Chronicle is a better-than-expected experience that shifts adolescence into overdrive. Though not officially a comic book flick, it joins movies like Kick-Ass and Super in bringing the genre not only into realistically contemporary times but realistically contemporary surroundings. It is not as fun and loving of its roots as the former, but far less repulsive and cynical than the latter. It deserves a watch despite its lack of capes and tights.

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