Tuesday, February 21, 2012


Get out your camcorder and super powers, we're reviewing Chronicle!
I was expecting this to be a fun little realistic superhero movie with so-so shaky cam cinematography and a few nods to Superman. After seeing it, I now fully believe Chronicle is to the superhero genre what District 9 was to the Sci-Fi genre. Spoilers may be ahead. Are they ahead? I don't know, probably.

Andrew(Dan DeHaan) is a quiet kid who's beaten by his father and bullied at school.  He decides to start filming everything because, that's his thing now I guess?  Anyways, his cousin Matt(Alex Russell) drags him to a party, which he does not enjoy at all.  Later, Matt and their popular friend Steve(Micheal B. Jordan) find a weird hole in the ground and with Andrew in tail, go down to investigate.  Some crazy mojo happens and they all gain the power to move stuff with their minds!  As their powers grow, they have fun with them, until things start to get out of hand for one of them...

This was really a great movie on so many levels.  It's easily the best non-major "realistic" superhero movie, and I'm not afraid to say it's the best found footage movie yet(Suck it Blair Witch Project, Cloverfield, and all three Paranormal Activities put together!).  It does a great job of simulating highschool life, what kids go through, and what they would do in this type of situation.  The mood it sets is fantastic. There are so many great things to love about it, but what you should take away from this is its fantastic story.

Even from very early on, you can tell it's going to be a tragic story.  This could be any kid. You knew this kid, you could have even been this kid.  He just gets dumped on from all sides, he has all this anger inside and no way to get it out.  He has a shitty life and things are just not going to end well for anyone involved.  It's a great character arc that sees him go from quiet kid, to talented super guy, to complete psycho.  And if there's any other movie that's a better PSA on not being a complete dickhole to people, I wouldn't know it.  Seriously, don't be a bully or a shit parent or a dick online-commenter, for the least reason that you never know if he's accidentally going to get superpowers.

They made a great choice in focusing on the character who would become the villain rather than the one who would become the hero. He has a more compelling arc, and villains will always be more fascinating than the hero. Another great choice: the villain isn't a comic obsessed nerd.  They could have easily made it so his only outlet is comics and it just would have given the underlying message of "comics turn you evil". Instead, he's just a quiet kid. In fact, they have little mention of superheroes at all in the movie and I'm fairly content with that.  It made the film overall feel more organic. Something else I really liked but can't exactly talk about:

One of the main characters dies, and big surprise, it's the black guy. But even thought they technically killed the black guy it doesn't feel like they killed the black guy(as in a played out trope where the black guy dies first, or as it's more common today, only the black guy dies).  How did they do this? Well he was one of the main actors, he had a fair amount of screen time, his death made sense, and there was a huge impact felt throughout the rest of the movie from his death. In fact, during the funeral scene, I couldn't help thinking the quiet protagonist was looking over the hundreds of people who showed and realized no one would come to his funeral, but maybe that's just me.

The movie is shot completely in the found-footage style, and it's surprisingly good, well thought-out cinematography!  There was no shaky cam, Andrew actually knew how to properly hold a camera, especially later when he figures out how to make it float with his mind. And he surprisingly knows how to set up a shot well!  It's basically about a kid having fun learning how to shoot with a camera, so it helps that it looks like a kid having fun shooting with a camera.  And any time it wouldn't make sense for a normal person to be still shooting(i.e. someone got hurt, put the camera down!), can be explained as an emotional choice. "I'm an angsty teen and this is the only artistic outlet I have, so FUCK YOU yes I'm going to keep shooting!"

Even more interesting, instead of making excuses why they have the same camera throughout the movie, they put together footage from all different kinds of cameras that are filming the teens at any given time, including news cameras, security footage, cell-phones, and other people with camcorders.  This makes for a great climactic end scene, where regularly it would be interspersed with cuts to make it look fast- paced, but here it's an amalgamation of all of the cameras shooting the fight.

The kids using their powers are really fun to watch and the sequences range from suspenseful to exhilarating, to terrifying. This is where the found footage technique shines, as it looks all the more realistic. I know a lot of people were put off by the scene of the boys flying through the clouds and playing football, and it is not as douchey as it looks.  And the finale(which yes it does look exactly like an Akira adaptation so there's no reason to make that movie anymore HINT HINT NUDGE NUDGE SAY NO MORE) is ridiculously amazing.  And while it is strictly found-footage with no score and the only music is background music, the music they do choose sets up a great mood. So technically, yes, it has a great soundtrack.

THE GOOD: great story, great underrated acting, effects are fun, found footage is used well, great superhero movie, great soundtrack, good job of showing what it's like to be bullied

THE BAD: Um...not much? Sometimes the special effects aren't that realistic, but not enough to ruin it, and it might be hard for someone to watch who was hardcore bullied, until you get to the second act that is...

THE VERDICT: Go see it! I doubt we'll get a better 'realistic' superhero movie, and it really is the best use of found-footage ever.

MOVIES LIKE IT: District 9, Super, Kick-Ass, Akira, Hancock

ONE-SCENE METAPHOR: After shit really hits the fan and our protagonist starts to go off the deep end, a bully makes fun of him. Our protagonist rips out three of his teeth with his mind!  Afterwards, he talks into the camera about how he did it, laughing about how he accidentally broke two of the teeth in transit. It's funny and disturbing but still kind of awesome. DON'T BULLY PEOPLE YOU GUYS.

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