Movie #17: Chronicle

I love these kinds of indie films with sci-fi or supernatural premises. In Chronicle, three teenage guys are exposed to some kind of freaky glowing space rock and end up with incredible super powers. Though that story (or one like it) has been done repeatedly (especially in the comic-book world), this movie takes an extremely realistic perspective on it. The entire movie (except for a few scenes) comes from a kind of “found footage”, first-person camera perspective (like Blair Witch Project, Paranormal Activity or Cloverfield). The main character, Andrew, gets himself a number of video cameras in order to chronicle his own experiences and those of his buddies. Obviously, as they gain powers and start to do amazing things, it’s all “caught on tape”. As much as I love the idea of this fresh approach to the super-movie, there are a lot of problems that can’t be overcome by a clever concept. Despite having a core sci-fi theme, it doesn’t take much to realize that this film is a thinly-veiled or barely-altered retelling of the “troubled teen” story line: kid gets bullied, kid gets strong, kid gets angry, then kid gets even. While I’m sure it was an intentional choice of which direction this story would go in, but I wish they had diverted a little from the realistic context in order to get into more over-the-top sci-fi ideas. They could have spent more time figuring out about the space rock; why they have powers; and how the rock got there. That would have led to all kinds of things beyond a simple teenager story. Instead, they chose to spend a large portion of the movie showing how the guys learn the extent of their abilities (which is good) by playing all kinds of immature pranks on strangers (which is lame). In general, I can’t stand “dude” type characters (if you know what I mean) who have very little emotional depth, but prefer to act like juvenile frat boys. After they develop their superhuman abilities, it brings Andrew and his friends (including his average-type cousin, Matt, and the most popular guy in school, Steve) closer together. Unfortunately, there is very little exploration of that friendship as well. When Andrew is suffering as a result of his terrible home life (mother is bed-ridden with seriously illness; father is an abusive, selfish drunk), why do his new super-friends do so little to help him cope? These are all under-developed aspects of the potential story that might have made this movie a lot more engaging. As the story of Andrew progresses (and as his powers grow), his highs and lows get more and more extreme. Unfortunately the ending just dragged on and on (despite decidedly more-than-indie explosions). The special effects were a highlight of this film. Since it’s all “found footage” I would imagine it’s more difficult to combine CGI elements into the scene. However, they did an amazing job with all these supernatural elements and making them appear as believable parts of the real world (with the exception of the hovering, where the guys looked like they were being held up by wires). I think I was more disappointed with this movie than one that I might not have had high expectations for. It ended up being less original (Akira and Unbreakable did it all better) and not carried off as well as I’d hoped. (3.5 out of 5)

17 down, 33 to go!

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