Thursday, February 09, 2012

706 - Chronicle review

What would three teens imbued with Godlike superpowers do? I can think of two options:

A. Announce themselves to the world as its new rulers, taking any and everything they ever wanted.

B. Videotape the whole experience while keeping it a secret, until one of them inevitably snaps and goes on a rampage.

“Chronicle” is a film about option B, which I’d imagine would be the choice of most filmmakers on a budget. Sure, the budget here is $15 million, which could make dozens of true indie films, but how many of those movies would feature characters that could fly across oceans and crush cars just by thinking about it?

Although the found footage format has seen extensive use since “The Blair Witch Project,” (first seen a whopping 13 years ago, can you believe it?) here there are some clever flourishes that allow the storytelling twists and surprises that a conventional format might have made predictable. Since teens Andrew (Dane DeHaan), Matt (Alex Russell), and Steve (Michael B. Jordan, no famous relation) are able to telekinetically levitate objects, courtesy of a crashed alien ship, the camera often finds itself hovering around the action, and proves a pretty resilient device, seeing as it’s often dropped out of the sky.

Since we’re talking about a film following the aforementioned option B, their usages of powers are generally modest; they play a mental game of catch, soar amongst the clouds, build a Space Needle out of Legos, and impress girls with at the talent show. At least, that’s about all they do until the movie nears its conclusion (with an 83 minute runtime, this doesn’t take long), where stress causes one of them to evolve from student to mentally armed robber to apocalyptic force of destruction.

That final sequence, which I would guess took a good half or more of the budget, sees the trashing of a good part of Seattle, told from the perspective of an array of camera phones, security and traffic cameras, news cameras, and for a couple of shots what looked like a plain old fashioned movie camera (cheating).

It’s an exciting film, with unexpected moments of humor and intensity. Directed by Josh Trank and written by Max Landis (famous relation to John, director of “Animal House”), there were a number of moments that piqued my interest, such as how they debated when and how their powers should be used, or how extensive use of their powers cause injury.

But it’s all a little shallow upon reflection, lacking any real insight and modest with thematic creativity. Certainly these kids can think of something better to do with their powers than win talent shows, right? Well, not really, unless you count trashing a major city after a severe argument with one’s parents. There might be an even more pertinent question from this line of thought: what better could a filmmaker do with $15 million? I’ll admit, one could definitely do much worse.

3 out of 5

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