Saturday, February 11, 2012

Day 297 - Chronicle

Chronicle (2012) directed by Josh Trank

Chronicle has been described as a superhero movie, and I suppose it is, but to me what it really is is a character study of a tormented teenager who is given an outlet for his inner rage. Replace telekinetic powers with a gun and this could almost be a retelling of any number of stories where kids wind up shooting up schools. Andrew is an unpopular kid who gets picked on at school and has a dying mother and an abusive father who likes to drink. His only real friend is his cousin Matt who is confident, good looking and popular. Matt is friends with Steve, the most popular kid in school, so by extension Steve is at least courteous with Andrew, so much so that he invites him along to explore a mysterious hole in the ground. The three of them go into the hole as normal teenagers and come out as young supermen who can move things with their minds and fly.

At first the kids test their powers on small objects but soon graduate to moving cars and even flying. They have fun showing off and playing jokes on unsuspecting people, but when Andrew angrily causes a car crash, they realize just how powerful and dangerous their gifts are. The three agree to control their powers to make sure nothing bad ever happens, but despite the link that bonds them, Andrew is very different than Matt and Steve. We see his relationship with his father worsen, his mother dying a slow painful death, and the constant humiliation at school. He is one step away from crossing over to the dark side, to borrow a term from Star Wars. For the first half of the film, we see kids being kids, having fun and exploring their powers, but the second half is decidedly darker and more mature as they realize the consequences of their powers. This is a great superhero (and villain) origin story.

The first thing you might notice about the film is its POV "lost footage" style. In the beginning of the film Andrew decides to chronicle his life via videotape, thus providing us with the majority of the footage we see. Other footage comes from a girl who is doing a video blog of her own, surveillance cameras and TV footage. It is an interesting and creative way to shoot the film that I would have never thought of for this type of film. A lot of the times these kind of films feel gimmicky but it works really well here because I feel like we get a much more personal look at the three characters, particularly Andrew. It also isn't disorientating at all like so many of these films can be because of the clever trick of Andrew being able to levitate and operate the camera without holding it giving us different looks and angles rather than the standard POV. This is particularly useful in seeing action sequences. A shot I really liked was when they first learn to fly and are soaring through the clouds. It looks like sky diving footage and is quite awesome to look at.

Grade: A-

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