Friday, February 3, 2012

Cool Powers Bro!: A Review of the Film "Chronicle"

Chronicle, directed by Josh Trank and written by Max Landis, seeks to wow audiences this weekend by crossing super powered characters in to the increasingly popular realm of the found footage genre (films that want you to believe the characters in it are the ones wielding the camera) but does it end up flying above such a gimmick or merely beat the audience to death with it? Personally, I think more of the latter.

The film chronicles - sorry, had to do it - three high school teens (played by Dane DeHaan, Alex Russell, and Michael B. Jordan) who all acquire telekinetic powers (ability to manipulate objects with one's mind) after discovering a strange, alien presence underground. A simple concept in and off itself, but one that is weighed down heavily by trite character backgrounds. Andrew (DeHaan) is school's social outcast who also happens to have a crappy home life, Matt (Russell) is his good-natured cousin but also the smartest guy in the room, and Steve (Jordan) is the popular kid good at every thing. Granted, when they are thrown together through the chance encounter of getting these powers, it makes for a few honest moments of teenage life; like using the powers for practical jokes and lifting girl's skirts. For the most part though, these characters never get past the stereotypes they were written as in the screenplay, despite the best efforts of the actors playing them (especially Michael B. Jordan whose proven talents, showcased in The Wire and Friday Night Lights, are woefully underused.)

Moody Mind SMASH!

Okay, but at the end of the day the film's not really about the story right? After all this is something of a spectacle film, with kids flying around and tossing cars in the air. Putting one's hopes in that to be the saving grace of the movie would be a mistake, as most thing done here we've seen done better already. Also, by the time any real or interesting action happens most viewers will already care to little for it to be enjoyable. While the film only runs just over 80 minutes so much time is wasted on quiet moments, such as Andrew levitating the camera above him just before sleeping on multiple occasions, that one would wish the film closer to 60 minutes.

Now all these problems aside, the film does have a few redeeming qualities. The previously mentioned "honest" character moments are refreshing to a film about high school teens, even when they are practically drowned out by the cliched character-types. Trank's choice not to limit the "found footage" to the protagonist's camera also proves interesting as it opens up the film a bit. The addition of security cameras and cell phone cameras of bystanders, helps to bring a little life back into the film by the third act and help navigate the action scenes for maximum enjoyment. Outside of these though, the film's attempted telekinesis on the viewer's feelings is quite transparent and makes it that much harder enjoy and easier to resist.

Ultimately, I give Chronicle 2 stars out of 5, as it has a few positives but definitely not enough for me to like the film. If your still tempted to check it out, save your cash and wait to rent the film as this theatrical experience certainly doesn't give you any more bang for your buck this time and it is less acceptable to try telekinesis there waiting for the film to pick up.

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