Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Chronicle (2012)

The use of handheld cameras is becoming a popular trend for supernatural thrillers. It started over a decade ago with the Blair Witch Project (1999), then became popular again recently when JJ Abrams incorporated it into his 2008 mega monster-movie Cloverfield. Abrams then not only employed it once again with his next film -- but even based the title around it -- in Super 8 (2011). All three of those movies were met with success, at least commercially, and officially set a precedent.

Josh Trank's Chronicle (2012) is no different. Every scene in the movie is seen through a lens as viewed by another character in the film. The majority of the time, it is through a video camera.

While this strategy is certainly unique -- and adds a feeling of realness when done well -- it is also very restrictive. In Chronicle, the video camera is explained immediately when the main character, high school senior Andrew Detmer (Dane DeHaan) tells his drunk and abusive father (Michael Kelly) that he will be "filming things now." This is said when his dad, Richard, is trying to break down a door to enter Andrew's room. This is effective because it makes us sympathetic right off the bat, and prevents us for questioning the video camera.

Andrew's mother, Karen (Bo Peterson) isn't out of the picture just yet, but she's close to it, as she is bedridden and slowly dying from cancer. Because of this dysfunctional family, Andrew has a very meek and defeated appearance and lacks self-confidence. As a result, he gets bullied at school.

His only salvation is his cousin, Matt Garetty (Alex Russell) who is a bit cooler, and is friends with one of the more popular kids in school, Steve Montgomery (Michael B. Jordan.) Through Matt, and later through Steve, Andrew maintains some relevance in his high school.

One of Matt's friends, and romantic interests, Casey (Ashley Hinshaw) just happens to be a video-blogger, or a "vlogger," which is obviously a manufactured plot device to allow the movie to be viewed through a camera when Andrew isn't on the screen.

But anyway, let's fast forward to why the movie actually exists. About twenty minutes in, Matt convinces Andrew to go to a high-school party, and while there, the two of them, along with Steve, venture into the woods when they discover an odd looking crater. They go into it, and it leads them into a tunnel that contains very bizarre crystalline objects. The objects make noise, which becomes deafening, and makes the trio pass out. When they wake up, they soon learn they have superpowers, such as telekinesis and the ability to fly.

Now, teenagers acquiring superpowers is hardly original in today's era of film. For reference, see any superhero movie ever made. But what I like about Chronicle is that the three teenagers don't use their abilities to halt bank robberies or fight crime, but they do what any teenagers would do if they were in the same situation -- they goof off.

Alex Russell, Michael B. Jordan and
Dane DeHaan in Chronicle.
For example, in one scene they visit their local grocery store, and mess around with people as they casually shop, all the while laughing in the background as they film it. In another scene, they head to a local junkyard to practice their flying, and in one more scene, they flaunt their abilities during a school talent show.

Peter Parker may have had a noble agenda, but this is what teenagers would genuinely do if they were to ever miraculously acquire superpowers.

The effects are pretty solid, as well. But the movie intentionally keeps things low budget, using the aforementioned video camera which adds as much realness as you can for a movie that involves superpowers.

The first 45 minutes of the movie is like watching a more composed version of Jackass, and it is fun and light to watch the three kids fool around. But then the film takes a total 180-reversal, as Andrew's family situation worsens, and -- falling into the superhero/villain cliche -- he reaches a level of frustration that forces him to abuse his newfound powers. From there, the film goes from a light comedy to a full-out superhero/monster movie. But, hey, it makes for some great entertainment.

For unknown actors, the acting really isn't half bad. I was mostly impressed with DeHaan, especially since he had the greater task playing the more unstable character. But he was up for it.

There were definitely scenes where finding an excuse to have the action viewed through a video camera were extremely forced, but it's mostly nitpicking, since it works well the other 90 percent of the time. Lastly, Chronicle is a fun movie to live vicariously through, because, well, who the heck wouldn't want to be highschooler with superpowers?

~ Review by Ddubbs

No comments:

Post a Comment