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A clever spin on the super hero formula.
Three buddies find a bizarre glowing object buried in a hole in a field. After coming in contact with it, they find that they are able to move things (including themselves) with their minds, a power that grows increasingly stronger as they exercise it. But one of the three, a bullied outcast, sees the potential to use his powers to get back at a world that he hates, and what begins as mostly harmless teenage boy pranks and antics becomes serious and deadly.
I liked the question this movie posed: Under what obligation are people with super powers to use their powers responsibly? If this were a different kind of movie, that question might have been explored in more depth. But this isn't that kind of movie, and instead it heads into pretty standard good guy against bad guy standoff mode with a special effects-heavy climax. So while maybe not profound, it's still pretty entertaining.
It also happens to be indirectly disturbing in the wake of so many recent school rampages, the one in Newtown, Connecticut being most recent. There seems to be an undercurrent of rage percolating in America's youth that is venting itself in terrifying ways, and it's not hard to read this film as an allegory for the themes recurring in our media culture.
The only thing I distinctly disliked about this movie was the director's decision to film it in the "found footage" style. Everything in the movie is shot in first-person perspective, via someone's video camera, cell phone, etc. This is easy enough to accept at first, but becomes downright preposterous toward the end as victims continue to film (and quite adeptly at that) events even as they're trapped in cars being hurtled through the air. It's an unnecessary gimmick that takes the viewer out of the experience.
I love a good comic book/superhero movie. They're my weakness, and I'm
open to giving just about all of them a fair chance (for example, I
paid to see RISE OF THE SILVER SURFER in theaters despite being well
aware of how lame the first movie came out). While I am a massive fan
of comic films, it doesn't mean that I'm blind to the fact that they
have become a little formulaic in their execution. Whenever a new
superhero is brought to the silver screen, regardless of how well it's
done, you always sort of know what to expect. So I am incredibly
supportive of any effort that tries to rattle the system a bit and
attempt something different with one of my favorite genres. CHRONICLE
is just that: a new spin on a popular genre. The characters in this
movie aren't from any established comic book series; the story is
completely original and written by Max Landis (son of director John
Landis). Three teenagers in Seattle are exposed to some bizarre alien
object buried in a field and soon find that they have developed
telekinetic abilities. Andrew Detmer is your average socially awkward
teenager, quietly coping with a terminally ill mother and an abusive
alcoholic father. His closest "friend" is his philosophical cousin Matt
and he fails to connect with any of his classmates, including captain
of the football team/future class president Steve Montgomery. The three
of them are brought together by their fantastic circumstances and start
off using their powers for pranks and fun, but everything soon spirals
out of control.
CHRONICLE was Josh Trank's directorial debut. The man was only 27 when it was released, and it went on to gross $125 million. I don't care who you are, that's impressive. I dug this movie a lot more than I expected. The trailers had piqued my curiosity but the whole "found footage" angle has been so overplayed in recent years (sometimes well, sometimes not) that I wasn't in any rush. The entire movie plays out from the perspective of Andrew's personal video camera because his life is so miserable that he's decided to record it for whatever reason. Regardless, the format works out perfectly in the context of the movie. The movie is at an advantage not shared by other found footage movies in that it's character/cameraman uses his telekinesis to float the camera around, achieving angles that other movies of this format can't. It also had the good thinking to not limit itself to Andrew's personal camera, as they are many moments in the film cutting to other recording devices in the vicinity to capture the scene, whether it be a camera phone, a security camera, or internet video blogger Casey Letter (Ashley Hinshaw) who's only real purpose in the movie appears to be to act as a second viewpoint. The home video style has the added bonus of making the effects in the movie, impressive enough on their own, appear more authentic. When these friends are engaging in their pranks with their newfound powers, it looks legit.
The movie stars a bunch of unknowns, of course, and it probably wouldn't have worked any other way. Fortunately, the non-stars in this movie have enough talent to come off as real high school students in a bizarre situation. Michael B. Jordan is charismatic as the football star, and Alex Russell does well enough as Matt, the voice of reason who decides one fateful afternoon that rules need to be set when things get a little out of control. But the real talent here is Dane DeHaan as Andrew Detmer, the true focal point of the movie. While all three of these kids received the powers, the story truly focuses on him. He's from a dysfunctional home with an abusive father, and he's never had any real friends to speak of. He's a walking joke at school, made even more awkward when he decides to start carrying his camera everywhere. He's a ticking time bomb and fate has just turned him into a weapon of mass destruction, with only a shred of self-control keeping him from going off. He's a vulnerable, lonely kid who finally feels like part of something and his eventual downfall when the pressure becomes too much feels sincere and you can't help but feel for the kid. And when he does finally meltdown, it pretty awesome. CHRONICLE was one of my surprise favorites at the start of 2012, so I'm glad I gave it go.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
...said up-and-comers being tyro director, Josh "The Kill Point" Trank,
writer, Max "I am my father's son" Landis, and lead actors, Dane
"Lawless" DeHaan, Alex "Carrie (2013)" Russell, and Michael B. "Red
Tails" Jordan. In a tale that riffs on ancient Greek admonitions about
hubris and the Judeo-Christian equivalent, "pride goeth before a fall,"
"Chronicle"'s three high-schoolers discover a strange artifact that
transforms them into superhumans (powerful telekinesis, flying,
relative invulnerability). The results are eventually tragic, although
the film ends on a note of hope and redemption. The trip along the way
is refreshingly well done, an examination of the nature of the superman
without the embarrassment of comic book adolescence. No spandex
costumes, no crime-fighting, adventure-seeking nonsense, just a
thoughtful examination of Lord Acton's famous adage, "Power tends to
corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely," which he expanded
upon thus, "Great men are almost always bad men." The "found footage"
presentation makes it immediately accessible, especially since there's
a notable dearth of shaky-cam so often associated with that conceit.
I note with interest that the trinity of leads all have biblical names closely associated with the New Testament: Stephen (Steve) was an early Christian martyr, while Andrew and Matthew (Matt) were Apostles of Jesus. Coupled with Andrew's interest in Tibetan mysticism and Matt's eventual journey there, along with Andrew's dramatic arc akin to a male version of "Carrie" ramped up a few orders of magnitude, this can't be accidental. References to folks like Schopenhauer and Jung highlight Andrew's ultimate belief that he has become an "apex predator," thus making the tragic finale all the more inevitable.
Still, despite a satisfying close to the story (which I will not spoil), there's plenty of wiggle room for a sequel, and given that this brisk (running time less than 75 minutes by my DVD clock, not counting credits) sci-fantasy made a very handsome profit, I have little doubt there will be one. We can only hope that Landis gets to script it. Recommended.
While not a bad film, Chronicle isn't the groundbreaking event that it is trying to be. If you aren't a teenager, or if you have even an interest in stories from other countries, you'll see beyond the surface of Chronicle. But first, lets get to the good stuff. The climactic sequence is pretty cool. It is very reminiscent of Akira (both the manga and the film), and the use of found-footage makes for a great montage of sources to bring that action to life. That said, however, the rest of the film plods along with a story that is manufactured for teens, fails to have any conflict, and is really nothing more than a origin story for a comic-book villain. The thing is all of this has been done before, and done much better. Unbreakable (origin story, which actually had conflict, and an arc to the story). Akira (some REAL mind-manipulation). Blair Witch Project, Cloverfield (found-footage that actually served the story). And I'm not really sure why they made this movie as a found-footage film. It really didn't enhance the film in any way. It was actually distracting. Because I was constantly aware that this was supposed to be a camera floating around. And I kept thinking "who would actually be carrying a camera around in this situation?" But if you are a teen, or haven't seen any of those other films then you might like... no, screw it, go see those instead.
This is a movie that competently takes the viewer (once again) into the
world of a small town American high school. The focus is on two
cousins: older and cooler Matt (played by the attractive Alex Russell)
and troubled Andrew (played by Dane DeHaan). One more joins the group:
popular Steve (played by Michael Jordan).
A strange event occurs that gives the three special powers, specifically telekinesis and flight. Later they also seem to have super strength and at least some invulnerability. A fun part of the movie is exploring what American teenagers would do if gifted with such extraordinary powers. This is nicely portrayed and the viewer is drawn into the excitement. The flying sequences in particular were fun to watch.
At the start, the story is primarily told from Andrew's point of view, literally, because Andrew is into filming and the story takes the form of found footage. We see the world through Andrew's eyes, so we come to understand his life and his motives. However, because of his family life and emotional problems, Andrew ends up having difficulty coping with his powers. This problem becomes the focus of the last third of the movie. Will Super Andrew, our narrator, be able to find his way?
I loved the story of the film, and I thought that most of the acting
was believable, though Andrew's father's acting in some scenes wasn't
great. I also felt disappointed as I'm afraid the trailer does reveal
some of the end scenes, so if you want to sea the film, don't watch the
The film was filmed with a home camcorder, which I have to admit I had to get used to, however after a while it was fine. The film also did seem to drag on a bit, however it wasn't too bad.
I thought that overall the film had lots of heart, and was a big improvement on these blockbusters which lack decent acting.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Another found footage movie, with an edge though.
Three high school kids find a rock, and absorb some sort of power from it. Soon enough, they are able to control things using their mind, and soon enough turn on one another.
The tailer for this movie is very deceptive, as is the element of found footage, as there are obviously parts toward the end that are just like a normal movie.
But this has to be the best 'ff' movie since 'Troll Hunter', and one of the best American ones out there.
The simple being is because the film is a lot of fun, and because of it's very slim running time, we get into the action more or less straight away.
The three high school kids are good, but they are predictable, you know from the upstart that the geek is going to be the strongest, but forgive this minor blip,and there is lots to discover in this.
What makes the film fun, is the fact that they are doing exactly what we would do if we had powers. We would impress to get status, we would fly, and we would want to go somewhere cool.
But also, in the back of our minds, we know that we would have the power to do anything, and know that we would be one of the most powerful beings on earth, and this is where the film gets it's biggest credit.
One moment, the films like a big summer break, it's a happy discovery to find what you have. The next in literally a bolt of lightning, the film turns very dark, and shows its evil side.
sadly toward the end, the film ebbs toward some sort of fantastic four duel of sorts, and just becomes a tad annoying, like the main character.
But for the majority of the film, it's powerful, gripping, and most of all, a lot of fun.
It's great when films like this come out of nowhere and surprise you
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This film was like "Carrie" for a new generation ,the outcast pushed to the limit by everyone around him....By saying this I am not insulting the film , quite the opposite I LOVED this film for this reason.Andrew was a superb protagonist (I am saying protagonist because he was not an antagonist , none of the main characters were antagonist and this is one of the things I also loved about the film) He was a flawed , tragic character and he was extremely endearing for it.I am man enough to say that I shed a tear for him at the end of the film. I went into the theater expecting an average Xmen meet Cloverfield type of film what I got instead was a great character piece. This film surprised the heck out of me.
"Chronicle" is a supernatural found-footage movie that.... Whoa, wait,
where are you going?? Get back here! Oh I see you have a healthy
distrust of the phrase "found footage movie", especially in conjunction
with "supernatural". It probably brings to mind certain groundbreaking
but nausea-inducing films like "The Blair Witch Project" and worse,
many a low-lowbudget indie flick that uses "found footage" as an excuse
for lazy camera work.
Well, you'll be happy to know that none of that applies here. Initially very skeptical, I ended up really getting into the camcorder approach when I saw how expertly the camera work and special effects really are. Ultimately the cinematography of this found-footage flick ends up being more polished than most Hollywood blockbusters.
"Chronicle" is about 3 ordinary-to-nerdy high school students who stumble on a phenomenon that gives them supernatural powers. Immediately one thing I liked was the way the movie didn't waste any reels of film on trying to explain the backstory of this phenomenon. It was as if to say, "Ok people, we're establishing that this is a supernatural story. But that's not the point so we're not going to waste time dwelling on it." And immediately the story shifts to a very personal and psychological tale about 3 friends, their different personalities, the demons in their closets, and how the supernatural power brings out their latent, often ugly, human nature.
The trailer, as well as the PG-13 rating, may lead you to believe that the story is somewhat tame if not flaky. There's no nudity, not too much profanity, and not much violence... whoa... Wait, actually there is a good bit of violence, but the camera doesn't dwell on it. Instead, even more disturbing I think, the camera gives you just enough to imagine the rest, and that can be pretty chilling. My nails were dug a good 3" into the edge of my seat by the end. "Chronicle" begins at a leisurely pace but begins to pick up speed and tension up to its absolutely spectacular final minutes.
I'm not just talking about the special effects which are quite convincing especially on a big screen if you have one. But the drama between the characters comes to an amazing climax, every bit as riveting as the visuals.
"Chronicle" is a great flick because it isn't stuck in any particular genre. It has elements of "the Dark Knight" and all those superhero type flicks, but it also has a firm basis in a solid teen-coming-of-age story with dark psychological overtones like "The Squid and the Whale" or an obscure favorite of mine "Archie's Final Project". It touches on the serious mind-damaging issues teens face in school like bullying, peer pressure to be cool, high school cliques, abusive parents, and (the whole point of the found-footage angle) society's withdrawal and depersonalization from itself through cameras and technology. This ain't no mindless action flick (although if you're just up for a good time, it can be taken as that), but this is a very critical study of the issues that many young people face. Couple that with super powers and you never know where it'll lead.
Other great films about how humans behave when given absolute power include "Sphere" (1998) and the underrated gem "Special" (2006). Thumbs way up for all of these. "Chronicle" gets an extra thumb for featuring the David Bowie song "Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars" (an excellent metaphor). See it on a big screen blu-ray if you can.
This is a tough call. While the premise is interesting, and the story quite entertaining, something's just missing with "Chronicle." It plays around with the whole superhero/villain theme, which is rather refreshing. It seems that in most sci-fi stories that involve sudden gains of power, the protagonist is always somehow good. "Chronicle" plays rather well with this notion, which is a new spin to the story -- it's the Magneto of regular superhero films. Otherwise, the biggest setback of the film is it's rather poor character development. While we are made to feel sorry for the main protagonist, Andrew, the ways that we are made to feel that way are rather clichéd: no friends, bullied at school, abusive father, etc. His rage and his inner turmoil somehow is multiplied to the verge of bursting, without it quite making a lot of sense. The three main actors were pretty decent, especially Alex Russell who was the most engaging and believable of characters. The hand-held camera, and the very choice to do a camera perspective for the entire film, is a rather divisive choice as I have come to see in reviews, but I did not mind it all that much. The escalation of the story by the end somehow happened out of nowhere and escalated quite dramatically. A bit too much for my taste, with a rather anticlimactic ending. It was a nicely conceived idea and some great visuals can be seen in the film, but this falls into the mediocre bracket easily. 5/10
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