johnlink ranks CHRONICLE (2012)

Must be getting late in the year, because the 2012 early releases are now popping up on DVD. Or maybe they already have been but I wouldn’t know since I haven’t bought a new-release DVD in quite some time. Either way, this is the first 2012 film I’ve seen at home, and not in theaters. Because, you know, having that knowledge really matters to you…

I watched CHRONICLE (2012) on 9.29.12. It was my first viewing of the film.

This is another found-footage film, this one about three boys who are given super powers by some glowing force in the ground. Often, these sort of films try to play the ‘is-it-real’ angle in an attempt to dupe audience members gifted with less natural intelligence. CHRONICLE never makes that play, instead using the found-footage style to add legitimacy to the story while also covering up obvious questions of how A) they actually got their powers and B) how the hole got covered up. It also allows the film to save its budget for the last act. Smart move, all told.

The story focuses around Andrew (Dane DeHaan) who starts filming his life in an attempt to document his father’s alcoholic and abusive ways. But he decided to also bring the camera around with him, using it to further isolate himself as a loner in high school. Andrew’s cousin Matt (Alex Russell) doesn’t particularly like him, but is obligated to being him to school and such. The third in the triangle is Steve (Michael B. Jordan), a popular young man running for class president. Once they discover the mysterious glowing object in the ground outside the party, strange things start happening. They can move things with their mind and, ultimately, fly.

The discovery scenes in this are nice. They feel like young men with a sense of mischief using their powers to start trouble, though not in a really malicious way. Andrew grows darker, however, as his mother gets sicker and his father more abusive. The bond the three super-powered guys develop as they learn to use their powers begins to deteriorate as they begin to master them.

The problem the film has is that the writing and acting are mediocre at best. None of the actors are particularly convincing. Nobody is bad, but nobody is really all that good. The writing wants to be hip and clever, but it is inconsistent. In attempt to show Matt’s sophistication he references Jung and Plato and such. Once he gets his powers he stops doing so. Of course, I did find the moment where he reference’s the Allegory of the Cave while the descend into the glowing hole despite the fact that there seems to be no connection at all. Matt’s not referencing it because it is pertinent, only to show how clever he is. I would feel better about this if it didn’t feel like the screenwriters were doing the same thing. I didn’t feel like the writing was born out of a depth of philosophical knowledge, but rather like wikipedia was referenced in order to sprinkle in some narrowly relevant depth.

The impetus of Andrew’s growing darkness is similarly underdeveloped. While there is supposed to be some meaning here about the mental state of victims of abuse, the film puts him in too dark a hole to crawl out of. At one point Matt yells at Andrew, telling him that he is hurting people. Both they (and the film) attempt to ignore the fact that he is actually killing people (the PG-13 rating really hurt this movie, as it was very apparent that it could not get as dark as it wanted to). So, instead of making some statement about domestic abuse victims, the film instead makes a sort of backhanded comment that they cannot be saved. I would normally say that this just means I’m reading too far into a film which is really just about kids with powers, but watching this film gives the undeniable impression that it really wants to be about something. It just lacks the sophistication to make it so.

The special effects are similarly underwhelming. Ironically, the big action moments in the last act look great. It’s the early stuff, with the boys building legos with their minds for example, which feels unpolished. I guess it is easier to convincingly throw a person through a building than it is to show them making a ball float in the air.

For all these faults, the last act really is entertaining. As you watch the film you begin to wonder where it might go. Because the scope is so small, you can’t help but wonder if it is going to wrap up in that way. Instead, the fight goes to the streets of Seattle, and we are witness to a really effective last sequence. I don’t think the entire film needed to be this big, but it needed to be this focused.

So, what we end up with, is a unique look at the super-power genre, both in filming technique and in subject matter. Certainly the thematic points of view lack sophistication, and certainly the acting and writing could have used some development. But it’s a film I’m glad I saw once, a film I didn’t hate, and a film which may not be as memorable as it wishes to be.





~ by johnlink00 on September 30, 2012.

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