Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Chronicle-Kino Shout! Review

Chronicle (2012)

Dir: Josh Trank

Starring: Dane DeHaan,  Alex Russell, Michael B. Jordan.

Verdict: 4/5

Great films that are similar: Superman, The Blair Witch Project, Kick Ass.


There are a myriad of cliches with which I could open up this review. I could say "wow, turns out that you can teach an old dog new tricks!" I could also say "its a great thing to realise that life can still surprise you." However, since Chronicle is anything but a tired cliche, why don't I open by simply quoting the great philosopher Martin Lawrence-"Shit just got real."

"Damn, I loved Bad Boys 2"-Heidigger

When I first heard word of this one I was wary. The film is a hybrid of the superhero and found footage  (The Blair Witch project, Cloverfield) genres. As such, it toys with and attempts to function within two of the most over-used and tired of modern genres (the rom-com not withstanding, of course). I am not a sci-fi geek, nor am I the most avid superhero devotee. For me these are simply two genres that, like many others, produce both their fair share of hits and misses alike. Thus, my first praise for this visually clever and emotionally resonant film is that it succeeds on virtually every level. Not only this, but you may even find that it treads new ground for both genres that it represents.

Firstly, we have the principals. Newcomers Dane DeHaan,  Alex Russell, and Michael B. Jordan (yup, the black jock kid is played by a guy called Micheal Jordan) play their parts with such such crude, self-effacing teenage realism that those in their teens will identify and those not, will remember with chagrin.  Of course, this in itself is far from original. But, how about this for radical question: how come those who inherit super powers are always so noble?!


...and compliant.

Seriously, why are these superheroes always such selfless people?! They inherit super-human abilities and the first thing they think of is to fight crime?! Why don't they get drunk on their own power first, play some pranks, commit some petty crime and such? That's what  I would do! Well, I'm proud to say that this movie is one of the precious few in which the "superheroes" do just that. During the course of the first half of this film we see our "heroes" use their new found telekinetic powers to terrify children, steal cars, and steal a glimpse up girls skirts.

 And it's charming!  We see three friends celebrate youth together, forming a bond not unlike old-fashioned childhood tall tales like Stand by Me or early work of Steven Spielberg. When Matt tells the others that "I think this was the best day of my life", I felt a distinct and poignant "aint life grand" lump form in my throat, and for all of the right reasons. Thus, the film does succeed in selling these teenagers and their values well.


Then, in stark contrast to this, we have the darker elements of the film. Yes, the darkness is indeed strong with this one. It is a stock found footage cliche that one of the principle characters always has to inexplicably take it upon themselves to film absolutely everything that transpires out of some "principle"; this film is no different. What is unique, however, is that the character in question takes to the camera in order to capture his drunken, abusive father on camera...

....oh, and also, to capture the final days of his dying mother!!


And so begins one of the bleakest and mostly boldly dark superhero outings of all time. Even Christopher Nolan would blush as the disturbed young protagonist Andrew allows his new found power to transform him from coy, misunderstood kid to a Darwinian-inspired murderer. Going above and beyond the call of duty in following his theory that he is a Nietzschean Ubermensche, the  kid steals, murders, and generally wreaks the sort of havoc generally reserved for screen dictators. Leading to the kind of place that all darker-than-necessary film outings should-with a bloody showdown.

Yes, the film's modus operandi encompasses many of the most potentially repulsive superhero/found-footage cliches.  The humble origin story and the nobility vs evil issue has been done to death within hero ranks. Furthermore, if you are like me, you will be getting tired of the contrived notion that the camera is always in the right place in supposedly "found-footage" pieces...

...but, hey, look at what the film does have. The films jovial, prank-filled early scenes give this film a wonderfully natural sense of character investment by the time things start to get chaotic for our young "heroes". Furthermore, the intelligence of the way this film is shot is sufficient to change the way we think about found-footage movies forever. The genre was previously very static visually. This was a necessity, because even the slightest of angle changes would betray the found-footage premise. However, this film uses a significant amount of imagination. Having heroes that can telekinetically lift a camera allows for the director to utilise crane shots (ooh!). Furthermore, this is the surveillance age, cameras are everywhere! If one can access the footage from, say, a hospital surveillance camera, and then splice it with footage from the protagonists camera-voila! We have the opportunity for Hollywood editing of a fight sequence (ahh!)!

Thus, privacy violation is a good thing...

Thanks, Hollywood!
So, as it was in the beginning of the found-footage revolution, so it is again. For, as was the case with The Blair Witch Project, what we have here is nothing new in story, but it does advance the way we may think about our storytelling just a little bit. So, if you're interested in a truly good yarn this month, then get ye to the movies, friends!

By the time you read this, two of these children may be dead!

No comments:

Post a Comment