Monday, February 13, 2012

Review: "Chronicle" – Super Hero Origins Done Right!

Chronicle available in US theaters now.

I have always loved Super Heroes. The impossibility of having any kind of power that puts you above the rest of humanity has always played a big part in my imagination. The most common question, after you decide what you want your power to be, always is, “If you had super powers would you be a Super Hero or a Super Villain?” I usually say Hero, just because I always like to be the good guy. The film, Chronicle (Released February 3rd 2012) is a film that takes a few teenage boys and puts them in this exact situation. It’s a ride anyone who likes Super Heroes of any kind CANNOT miss!

The story revolves around 3 high school kids; Andrew (Dane DeHaan), the awkward outcast with family problems who has chosen to video tape his life, Matt (Alex Russell), the hipster, kind hearted guy who isolates himself by choice, and Steve (Michael B. Jordan), the school super star. They find themselves bound together when at a rave they are exposed to an unknown force that within a few weeks gives them telekinetic powers that they use around town to pull pranks and jokes on the unknowing people around them. All three slowly become more and more powerful, able to lift heavier objects, create protective barriers, and even fly. As they experiment with their powers, their friendship blossoms into something very believable and touching. However, as their powers grow, one of the boys quickly becomes unstable and starts using his powers against those around him, causing conflict between them leading to an unavoidable disastrous end. 

Andrew Detmer (Dane DeHaan) uses his powers to crush a car.
This film follows the “found footage” genre of cinema that so many films lately have been using.  I actually love this style of movie (Paranormal Activity, The Last Exorcism, REC, and Cloverfield are some of my favorites). This film follows more the Paranormal Activity style of filming where one character uses his camera to film the world around him rather than a documentary or news program. One of the biggest complaints from found footage films is the tendency of the camera being shaky and causing the audience to become motion sick. Chronicle films in such a way that the camera is very smooth through most of the film, only being shaky in certain spots where the action calls for it. Some of the best parts of the film are when the boys are experimenting with their powers on the camera, making it levitate above them causing very impressive camera angles, or using it as an over the shoulder view behind them, much like a video game would be played. The camera is also used as a tool to show how their powers progress. Before they have their powers it is a hand held camera, not so smooth, but as the boys use their powers more and more the camera becomes steady, less like a found footage film and more like an actual movie.

The story is driven by the relationship between the boys, as well as Andrew’s relationship with his family. The time the three spend together playing with their powers and using them to pull pranks elicits comedy that is contrasted by some of the darker tones in the film. This film rattles you emotionally through visions of an unstable family, and abuse that would make the Hulk cringe. Although not always believable, the angst in the film is something that is very real in today’s world, which makes this kind of situation even more volatile for the characters. You find yourself caring deeply for all three of the boys in this film because they are so easy to relate to. It is nice not seeing the over used High School clichés seen everywhere. When events eventually spiral out of control, you can’t help but sympathize with each one of the boys, and hope that they all make it through unscathed. 

French film poster.
The climax of the film is some of the best Super Hero material out there. There are moments that will shock and scare you, and others that make you simply say, “What the fu*k did I just see!?” The grim turn this film takes and how it evolves into a Good V.S. Evil battle is something few films are able to do so seamlessly when driven by so few characters. What really draws me to the film is that the “evil” I spoke of is really misplaced anger, fear and frustration. It is at this point I realize that, even though I always chose to be the “Hero” and not the “Villain”, I can easily see where my allegiance could possibly fall given certain circumstances. 

Chronicle is an amazingly well directed (by relatively new Josh Trank), well acted Super Hero epic that I feel anybody with a desire to have their own super powers needs to see. It’s the origin story so many Super Heroes wish they had. It’s an epic ride that both elates and crushes you as you watch it unfold. This is one of the few movies I have watched where I hope a sequel is on its way, but also one where it was great as a standalone film. Don’t be fooled by the found footage style or the cast of high school kids, fly to the theater and check this one out!

By: Justin Hopper

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