Monday, February 6, 2012

CHRONICLE Review- He Said

Directed by: John Trank
Written by: John Trank, and Max Landis
Starring: Dane DeHaan, Michael B. Jordan, and Michael Kelly 
Synopsis: Three friends deal with their new-found superpowers and film everything in the process.

CHRONICLE was really a movie that I had no connection to. I had barely paid attention to the marketing, and the trailers weren't selling me on it. But I'm excited to say that CHRONICLE ended up being really enjoyable. The movie has a lot of flaws in its script, and the found-footage aspect of the movie sort of falls apart in a way that was handled a lot better in DISTRICT 9, but along with THE GREY, and THE WOMAN IN BLACK, which were both released earlier this month, this is a solid movie worth the price of admission.

The story as a whole is very solid in dealing with theme of responsibility that comes with powers much like a movie with a certain web slinger. I honestly liked CHRONICLE as an exploration of that theme more than SPIDER MAN. SPIDER MAN was a better action movie overall, but what if Peter Parker didn't have an insane Norman Osborn to deal with during his movie, and he had to focus more on dealing with his pretty shitty life or even with the potentially dark aspect of just having more powers than anyone else around. CHRONICLE explores and answers these questions.

This was so interesting to me because, with the three main protagonists, you have three different interpretations of what could happen when all of the sudden you can fly and make objects float (including Pringles, because you know, product placement rocks). Much like my interpretation of TINKER TAYLOR SOLDIER SPY where I thought all of the characters as being mere metaphors of the effect of spy life, the characters in this movie show the effects of superpowers on three different people. Andrew is the kid that never had much, with an alcoholic father, dying mother, and being an awkward nerd type. Matt is his cousin that is really a bit of a blank slate for the most part. He thinks that he's above the petty social Darwinism of high school, and so he comes off as kind of a dick, spouting off philosophical ramblings while secretly wanting to be accepted. And finally, Steve, who in my opinion, is the odd one out. He is the most popular one out of the trio; he's running for class president and seems to be an all-around good guy. With this, they all take to their new powers very differently, and it was that part of the movie that made really enjoyed.

In terms of acting, it doesn't really seem like there was a need for Shakespeare-caliber acting, but damn if the main three leads didn't sell me their otherwise derivative characters. There were times where I was afraid that Andrew would be the nerd that's obsessed with the most popular blond cheerleader in the school because that's what nerds do in movies. Matt and Steve, being the straight shooters, had their own arcs that were interesting, even if they could never be fully realized thanks to the found footage aspect. Instead, the trio's characters are deeper than they initially appear, and that's just spelled out by their actions. Due to this characterization, by the time that stuff starts to get crazy, you understand both sides of the conflict, making the finale a bit more tragic.

What really bugged me was how loosely they tried to stick to the found footage aspect. If you guys remember, DISTRICT 9 started off as a mockumentary/found footage format, but then it gradually started to lose it in favor of more conventional story-telling. This was accomplished gracefully and gradually within the movie. In CHRONICLE, it's almost like there was a bit of a selective found footage format. There were times where it adhered to it very cleverly, where if the character wasn't holding a camera at the time, you could see security footage or traffic cameras. Other times, there were instances where you just can't imagine how there would be a camera at all, or they don't make the effort to try to create a camera in the scene. If you're going to be gimmicky, stick to the gimmick all the way through and don't stop, or do what DISTRICT 9 did and just gradually do away with it.

Talking more about DISTRICT 9, which had amazing visuals, it got me thinking about how terrible the CGI was in this movie. There were some scenes that looked like low grade student films. You could clearly see the green screen in some otherwise cool looking scenes. And there was a particularly hilarious scene where the trio is pranking people with their new found powers. My audience laughed, as did I, but half of me was laughing at the prank and half of me was laughing at the Syfy quality of the special effects. It's sort of strange to think that there have been movies with a smaller or equal budget that seem to have accomplished a whole lot more than this movie. I mean there was not a single special effect that didn't look fake, which could be distracting. I was really glad that the epic final battle looked pretty decent. My final complaint is something that I don't want to discuss to avoid spoilers...let's just say the villain's motivation in the movie seem a little ridiculous when thinking back on it.

But seriously, two good movies in one weekend in January? This is unprecedented. The movie did well at the box office this weekend, beating out Daniel Radcliffe's THE WOMAN IN BLACK, which still did decent, but not enough for a movie starring the former Harry Potter. Regardless, I'm happy to see an original movie succeed in these franchise obsessed environment.

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