Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Film Review- CHRONICLE (2011)

I'm only slightly embarassed that I didn't see ANY of the Oscar-nominated, best picture movies this year, yet I seem to have watched a bunch of popcorn-fart crap... which brings us to today's film... CHRONICLE.

The film mainly follows Andrew (Dane DeHann), his cousin Matt (Alex Russell) and their friend Steve (Michael B. Jordan... Wait, his name is Michael B. Jordan?  Really?).  Andrew is the stereotypical outcast at school.  If this were elementary school, he's the kid everyone made fun of for having "cooties."  Andrew comes from an abusive home and is not generally likable.  Matt tries to get Andrew out into the world and be a part of it, but Andrew is too antisocial.  Steve it the high school's impossibly cool guy.  So, to set up the film, Andrew, for no reason really, decides he wants to film everything.  It doesn't require any explanation.  It's a kid being a kid.  Then one night at a rave in the woods, the three stumble upon something... and they slowly develop the power of telekinesis (moving shit with your mind).  More after the break...

For the most part, Chronicle is a lot of fun.  It tells a familiar but interesting story with relatable characters in a format that hasn't been used to tell that kind of story.  It's like watching people you know doing amazing things in endless youtube clips... It feels very real because it's how real people would act and react to being granted godlike powers.  Which is both fun and frightening.  Andrew's turn to the "dark side" is a slow burn (REALLY SLOW) but it's completely believable and understandable.

As I write this, I can't help but compare and contrast Andrew in this movie with how the Star Wars prequel trilogy should have handled Anakin Skywalker.  The dude who plays the lead guy would have been a better Anakin Skywalker than Hayden Chistensen.  Andrew is dark, angry, lonely, misunderstood and somewhat unlikable.  He's an outcast.  He has mommy issues.  (But he isn't a whiney biatch like Hayden Christensen's Anakin Skywalker.)  When Andrew discovers his awesome powers (the force, if you will), he finds friends,  adulation, and popularity... He finds acceptance.  And like, in Star Wars, these powers give Andrew the feeling of being superior.  He grows to feel like those who care about him are holding him back.  And then after one unfortunate moment with a girl, his shit gets dark.  There's a scene where Andrew rips the legs off a spider with his telekinetic power, and it's done so much better and is more effective than Anakin CGI killing jedi children.  Hell, it makes you wish that Anakin had a drunken, abusive father.  All in all, it makes Andrew's dark turn believable and understandable... but sad and unfortunate nonetheless.

Matt, the "hero" in Chronicle was boring.  I kind of hoped they'd change the dynamic.  The lonely, dark angry kid who everyone hates becomes the hero, and the handsome happy guy everyone likes turns into the villain.  But no.  Matt was vanilla.  Just no character development, really.  The most fun character, Steve, got to play most of the comedy.  He was the most excited about these powers, and it's always fun to watch extraordinary people have fun with their gifts.  In any given youtube clip, he's the guy who's running around screaming, "Did you see that?!  Did you see that?!"

I thought that the shaky cam gimmick worked extremely well because, really, what's youtube but a bunch of people taking amateur videos of things they do.  Chronicle took that to a new level.  The filmmakers had some ingenious ideas like having Andrew control the camera with his mind, ensuring that it wasn't shaking and having it film them from a distance.  The only thing that really bothered me is these typically "found footage movies" have a reason for being showed or being presented as they do.  Blair Witch was found footage.  Cloverfield was secret government footage... which is actually really dumb... but consistent as there was one source and point of view.  (I mean, fuck, the government found this footage, and instead of editing out all the stupid yuppie bullshit with a boring couple, they decided to keep ALL of it?  The government likes a boring love story?)  With Chronicle... the sources of the film come from Andrew's camera, a random girl's camera and then a bunch of cell phone cameras and convenience store security cameras.  It left me wondering who put all these together for a movie?  This is never answered and it bothered the fuck out of me.  The shaky camera, found footage thing could have been an interesting plot point, but in the end it was just a gimmick.

Overall, Chronicle was enjoyable in its novelty.  It's a new, fun take on the shaky camera gimmick, and I appreciate the imagination behind it.  Not a classic.  Prolly something you could even wait for when it comes out on DVD, but it's good if there's nothing else on.  I give it 6.66667 Silverback Gorillas.

Random note... The screenplay is written by Max Landis (son of famous director, John Landis).  I knew nothing about him except that he did The Death and Return of Superman.  It's 16 minutes and Superman-related, but it's crazy entertaining and accurate.  After this, I knew I had to see Chronicle.

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