Superhero teenagers battle power, angst and Seattle weather.
Ah…the winter box office doldrums are in full swing this week. It’s the odd time of year when the trailers for films due this summer are more appealing than what’s being released on Friday. This week is chalk full of such releases: A weepy manipulator (The Vow) – check, Denzel Washington wearing a funny wig and most likely riding a train (Safe House) – check, and who could go without Jar Jar Binks in 3D (Star Wars – Episode 1 3D), check?
So, when a movie is released in these ‘dump’ months that is good or even passable it‘s often forgotten as audiences have been beaten down by so much schmaltz and recycled light sabers it’s hard to blame them for not caring. Lucky for us this big series of tubes we call the Internet can help.
Andrew decides to start filming his life. He believes it will make his mundane existence as a high school outsider more interesting. His cousin Matt convinces him to come to a rager of a party that the whole school will be attending. Matt thinks maybe a little human interaction would do Andrew some good. At said party Andrew meets do-gooder class President Steve who convinces him to come help he and Matt investigate and document a giant hole in the ground just beyond the tree line. Then they all get telekinetic super powers.
As corny as that sounds I dare you to break down a superhero movie in literal terms and make it sound more believable than that.
‘Chronicle’ is a superhero movie of the ‘found footage’ variety. It’s a device that one would assume could constrain a story as grandiose as this but here it functions perfectly. The hand held camera grounds the characters in a more believable, interesting world that’s more vibrant and alive than anything found on Asgard or Oa (look it up). And as Andrew becomes more powerful it allows for some very nice ‘floating’ camera effects.
The film’s script, while a tad on the nose, finds solace in these characters’ interactions. These guys act like teenage boys with super powers. Dane DeHaan, Alex Russell and Michael B. Jordan are convincing friends who struggle to come to grips with the implications of their new abilities. This all may sound trite but 26-year-old Director Josh Trank fuses ‘Chronicle’ with an infectious humor and style. For a budget of $15-million I rarely found the effects unconvincing and the final 30-minutes is as thrilling a set piece as you’ll find in any $250-million Transformers-explosion fest.
The film is not without fault. The dialogue can be ponderous and teeter on camp and some of the characters are given short shrift possibly due to the economic run time (under 90 minutes.) These are minor quibbles though. This is the type of movie that makes you excited about what’s to come for the young talent involved.
If ‘Akira’ had a baby with ‘The Blair Witch Project’ it would definitely be ‘Chronicle.’ This found footage thrill ride puts a surprisingly successful spin on superheroes and it’s about time too. The superhero genre has gone from tired to beyond played out over the last calendar year. From ‘Thor’ to ‘Captain America’ to ‘Green Lantern’ the Hollywood factory has done it’s best to squash the once beloved genre. Despite it’s problems it’s refreshing to experience something that dares to be (even just a little bit) different.