Chronicle

“Chronicle” is the story of three teen friends who discover some sort of glowing alien artifact within an underground tunnel. After a brief period admiring it, they’re overcome in some psionic fashion, succumbing to unconsciousness. When they awake, they find themselves endowed with burgeoning telekinetic abilities.

The object is not addressed afterwards… on their return to the site, the tunnel has been filled in. But the object is not the focus of the movie, it’s simply the catalyst.

Instead, what we have is the story of three young men suddenly infused with super-powers. How they would use them, how they would feel about them, and how they would keep things together between the three of them when their philosophies began to diverge.

To me, the strength of “Chronicle” is the believability with which the three teens begin to explore their powers. Unlike other super-power films, there’s no discussion of the greater good, no debates about how they have to help others… these guys mess with people’s heads and lift up chicks’ skirts. Those certainly aren’t the noblest pursuits, but to me, they’re highly credible. If some magic moon rock had imbued me with telekinesis as a teen that’s exactly what I’d have been doing…

Each of the three comes from a different high school social strata. The popular jock, the aloof intellectual, and the brooding loner. Obviously, such an event would form a strong bond between the three people involved, and the movie develops their friendship nicely.

As their powers grow, they take giddy delight in exploring them. Especially once they learn how to fly. The flying scenes in this movie have some of the best flight scene moments ever put to film. I wouldn’t call them the best flying scenes, perhaps, but they’re certainly in the debate. That said, there are some moments during those scenes where it’s just a breathtaking depiction of what it would be like to be able to fly…

Of course, with great power comes… great power. And power has a corrupting influence, which then becomes the central plot of the film. As their powers grow, Andrew, the loner, begins to lose patience with keeping his abilities a secret and rejects the notion that he shouldn’t be using them to his benefit. The movie has established him as a sympathetic character… he’s being abused by his stepfather at home, and bullied by his classmates at school. And so his gradual descent to the dark side is supportable from a character perspective, and also something the audience will be emotionally invested in.

So he begins to show off, explores petty crime, and eventually gets completely out of control… going on a rampage through the city of Seattle, as promised in the trailers. And it’s quite a sequence, too. The special effects are credible, the battle is well scripted and the fact that the two combatants are close friends keeps everything personal.

As strong as certain elements are though, the movie has an enormous flaw. The “found footage” style.

I haven’t always been a hater of the found footage style. When it first came out, I thought it was novel, the camerawork never bothered me, and I actually thought it worked well narratively at times. For example, the “Paranormal Activity” movies are a perfect fit for that type of film. You know WHY the camera is part of the story. Here though, it works much to the movie’s discredit. Scenes that should be marveled over for their special effects work (and the special effects were very good) are poorly shot, you get jerky glimpses or miss what you want to see entirely. Plus, there were several instances when I found myself wondering “Why would they be filming this right now?” or, “the camera is still with them?” Times when it simply didn’t make sense that they would be recording what’s happening.

It also may be extremely unfair to the film, but as many of you know, I’ve been studying “The Shining” this week for my impending Lambcast appearance. Contrasting the meticulous shot construction that Kubrick used to this herky jerky, seemingly “just record whatever you want” style of movie just made my stomach turn a little. I realize that the choice was probably made due to budgetary constraints, but this script and the young actors were strong enough that it left me pining for a remake that was traditionally shot.

It remains a strong movie, however. Very entertaining, passably acted, and with some occasionally great visual effects. The theme of having super-powers weren’t as well explored as the movie would like you to think – “X-Men: First Class” does a far superior job – but they toy with it at least. In the end you have a buddy comedy loaded with action that turns to a more traditional super-hero battle movie towards the end.

I just wish it was supported by stronger film-making.

B+

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21 thoughts on “Chronicle

  1. Fairly positive review, on the whole. I’m glad, because this looked like one that would be interesting. I think I commented before on the basic problem I have with “found footage” genre — “why would they be filming during this?” — so I’m not surprised it’s a factor here, but at least it sounds like it’s not enough to completely derail the film.

    • No, there’s a lot to like here. There really is.

      I just got to the point with it where I was like, the script is good, the actors are fine, the special effects are decent… why’d they need to do it?

      I think I’ve come to associate “found footage” with covering up flaws….

  2. I’m disappointed to hear that this film uses the “found-footage” gimmick. It’s been done enough and unless it’s a totally novel use I can do without. But pleased to hear the positve assessment. I’ve been looking forward to this one.

    Lee
    An A to Z Co-Host
    Tossing It Out
    Twitter: @AprilA2Z
    #atozchallenge

  3. I’m glad I stumbled across your review! This looks like a good movie based on the commercial, but I was a little dismayed that the camera work was that documentry-style (or the “found footage” as you’ve said) and that just screamed laziness to me. However, based on your review, I wouldn’t mind giving the movie a chance in theaters and see a matinee showing of it.

    • Yeah, that wound up being why I mentioned the Kubrick stuff I’ve been going over.

      It DOES feel lazy. REALLY lazy. I’m sure it wasnt actually laziness, it was more like its more cost effective, but it seriously downgrades what could have been a very good movie. Not that it wasnt good, I just think it could have been really good.

      Thanks for checking in Erin, I appreciate the comment… :D

      • You’re welcome! :) I agree that it does downgrade the potential of the movie, but I also agree that the decision was probably done due to finances (and these days what decision isn’t?).

  4. Your first seven paragraphs had me thinking that this is a film I’d really enjoy. Kind of The Breakfast Club on moon rocks, but when you got to the found footage thing it kind of all went out the window for me.

    • I finally got around to watching that buddy.

      As you know, Superman is a character dear to my heart. Also, I find I can no longer watch things without chronicling my thoughts. :D

      Funny video, but slightly painful due to the truth factor. Let me say this about Doomsday. The “Beat the Baby against the rock backstory, then clone it again” is 1,000,000 x the actual backstory Doomsday had when “The Death of Superman” came out.

      The Booster Gold facepalm is classic. LOL

      When they had the casket and that mockery of that five for fighting song I lost my shit laughing. That song sucks. Those dudes are pussies. They deserved that.

      Elijah Woods’ short comedy films are ten times better than anything more “legitimate” he’s done in years. Have you seen the Beastie Boys one with Wil Ferrell and Seth Rogen and everybody else in the world? Its great…

      The Green Lantern sub section is completely accurate as well.

      This is the second best line on Mandy Moore’s resume (Tangled).

      His final analysis (The Death of Death) is heartbreakingly correct. That list of characters who have died and come back is literally tragic.

    • I understand how it is… spoiler and all.

      Thing is? I think the trailer for this one lays the entire thing out anyways…. Its one of those where 90% of whats going to happen is layed out by the previews.

      Still good though, it doesnt spoil anything.

  5. I’ll wait for the rental but I’m surprised that most people seemed to like it. I guess that’s because it’s such a low budget movie with little expectations and it sort of came out of nowhere. Good review Dan although it felt like you would give it a lower score from all the flaws you pointed out ;)

    • Well, always hard to perfectly sync the tone of the review with the grade. I’m sure youve come across that yourself.

      It’s probably due to the fact I resented the style from allowing it to grade the movie A-. Which is where it could have wound up if it had been a competently directed traditionally styled flick…

      It was really good in a lot of ways!

  6. Hmmm I would rate it a B- or B at highest, but due to its budget, it is far better than that. The film went down hill in the second half for me though.

    Good review Dan!

    • I didn’t mind the second half too much, but I’ll give you that a lot of the problems of the movie popped up there. It probably was a lot more fun watching them discover and have fun with super-powers than it was watching them fight.

      But I thought the end battle was pretty cool…

      Anyways, thanks Matt, I appreciate it. I guess I just latched on to something about it, you know? If it wasnt for the found footage crap, it could have been even better.

  7. I read somewhere that this is finally a movie that tells the story of Xavier and Magneto in highschool. ha. I liked this one and actually didn’t mind the “found footage” part.

    You’re right. the credibility of the characters and their realistic reactions to their newfound powers really made the film that much better.

    nice review Dan!

  8. Ended up seeing this last weekend, and I really loved it, honestly. Most realistic dialogue of any high school movie I’ve seen. Acting was fantastic from a trio never heard of before. And as far as the footage style goes — normally I really dislike that, but it worked for me in this movie. I’ve tried to envision watching this movie in a traditional filming method, and when I do, I don’t like it. Loses some of it’s realism, ends up just feeling like another blockbuster teenage superhero movie. Plus, the “footage” thing did a lot for Andrew’s character. I never found it odd that they were filming because that was his obsession (didn’t you ever have any few-months-long gimmicks or obsessions in high school? I know I certainly did….maybe I’m just more Andrew than others here…).

    Only thing I disliked here was the female blogger character. She felt very tacked on, just so they’d have a different camera angle sometimes. But that’s really a minor flaw to a fully enjoyable movie.

    • “She felt very tacked on, just so they’d have a different camera angle sometimes.”

      That’s because she WAS tacked on, just so they’d have a different camera angle sometimes.

      Yeah, it was a good flick, though, right? Fun, REALLY fun at times. And then it all had enough weight to it to really pack a punch when they started throwing down at the end… good stuff!

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