February 6, 2012

Movie Review: Chronicle

I keep wondering when the superhero bubble is going to burst. I thought it would have happened by now, but just when you think it is about to go pop we get something that helps keep it going. There are the surprise blockbusters like Iron Man and the amazing vision of The Dark Knight, not to mention the promise of the first major team up with The Avengers. Now this is all well and good, I am not complaining, but I am beginning to wonder if it is the original superhero projects, the non-comic generated films that will fuel the genre and keep it going. One of those helpful projects is the just released Chronicle.

Before maybe a month ago, I had no idea what Chronicle was. I was unaware of its concept or its production. I recall seeing a trailer at the theater and wondering just what the heck it was. I was certainly intrigued. Now that I have seen it, I can say that I am in full support of the project, although it is not without its issues. It was actually nice to see a found-footage style movie that is not a horror movie.

Chronicle is a chronicle of a series of events that take us into the birth of a superhero, or at least a super powered villain. It is a first (well, sometimes second) person account of what amounts to the origin story. Considering the style used and the voices we get, that origin comes with little in the way of context. There is only a certain amount of knowledge that we are allowed to have. This helps keep our story nicely streamlined, yet it also creates some maddening circumstances where I would have preferred more exploration of the characters. Oh well, can't have it all, I guess. If the move had been made in the more traditional third person, it may have lost that bit that made it feel fresh.

The story focuses on three high school friends who find this mysteries sink hole/cavern. Inside they find something, well, alien. There is some noise, a flash of light, and afterwards our trio are left changed. They find they are in possession of some telekinetic abilities. They can stop baseballs from hitting themselves in the head, move toys around a local store, and eventually they learn to move big things like cars, and even teach themselves to fly.

The movie starts off with a look inside common high school life through the eyes of an outsider. Andrew (Dane DeHaan) is a troubled, angsty kid. He is dealing with a sick mother, and alcoholic and abusive father, and a lonely school life. I guess in looking for a way to deal with everything, make a document of his life, and possibly of the abuse at the hands of his father. He is not exactly the picture of happy youth and this new found power is giving him an outlet to release his frustrations and perhaps even be happy.

He isn't the only one to become empowered. His cousin, Matt (Alex Russell), and friend Steve (Michael B. Jordan) also find themselves enhanced. At first they are having fun with it, playing practical jokes and the like. The problem is that the further they push their abilities, the stronger the become, the more alienated Andrew begins to feel.

Andrew begins to act out, wanting to do more and more with the abilities. He uses them a lot, becoming stronger than the others. Arguments ensue and the fighting begins. The movie takes a turn from the microcosm of high school and becomes decidedly more epic as the battle takes on bigger and bigger proportions. It all culminates in a pretty big battle in full view of the public.

I have say, as much as I would have liked a fuller exploration of the characters, I mus admit to seeing Chronicle is a pretty interesting look at teenage relationships. We see how friendships can be created and dissolved in a heartbeat, how close sorrow is to rage. It is a pretty interesting way of exploring standard superhero tropes in a realistic fashion and correlating it to a somewhat believable teenage life.

You know, the more I think about it, the more I think there may be to this beyond the details of the powers and their effects and what I think I want to see. I suspect that Chronicle is more intelligent and insightful than that first viewing allowed me to see. This bodes well for future viewing and allows me to comfortably recommend this while not giving it a higher rating that it may deserve later on.

In short, see it. You may be surprised by what you find. I am doing my best to hold back my star rating for a future watch, to see if what I suspect is true.



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