Of the films that I saw popping up on numerous top 10 lists of cool bloggers I like last year, Chronicle (2012) was the one that had really passed me by. The trailer looked totally uninteresting to me… teens with powers, who cares?
Convinced by all the praise going its way, I thought it was time to give Chronicle a chance, and I am glad I did. Whilst it would not have made, or been particularly close to, my top 10 for last year, it is a pretty interesting take on both the superhero and teen film genres. In fact it was so original, that I am kind of disappointed that I did not like the film more than I did. The set up is pure teen film. Andrew is trapped by his alcoholic father, desperately ill mother and the fact he is a social outcast at school. Clearly he needs to escape. However in Chronicle, the escape is a little left of centre. Along with two other guys from his school, he investigates a mysterious hole in the ground. What they find there in that mysterious hole imbues them with mysterious telekinetic powers. Powers that Andrew masters much quicker than his peers.
One of the successes of the film is that the three protagonists actually do feel like normal teenagers. Not the clearly fake ones that generally populate teen films. As such you can go along with their trials and tribulations, not to mention the angst that they endure. The film also endeavours to bring a certain realism to the superhero origin story by asking seriously, what would a kid do with super powers? Would you just hang around skimming rocks, fight crime or start robbing banks. Great power surely brings the temptation of great corruption and that is something that the film refreshingly does not shy away from at all. Some of the emotional moments in the film do lack a little punch. There are a number of deaths that should really hit home, but for whatever reason do not quite do so. Having said that though, the film is not afraid to embrace a fair bit of darkness along the way of this journey. Another part of the film that slightly disappointed me was the balance of the narrative. I felt that the early, teen scenes could have been a little more dramatic. Whilst the more comic book film style conclusion I felt overplayed things a little, in the sense that it jarred with what had come beforehand.
Chronicle is a found footage film. This style of filmmaking immediately gets some people offside, due to its inherent shakiness. I am neither here nor there with it, though I do think that it is rarely done all that well. It is done pretty well here though. My issue with it, both generally and specifically to Chronicle is that the narrative justification is always so contrived. Here for example, Andrew just happens to have bought a camera and is “filming everything now”. Well that deals with that then. In addition, I don’t think there has ever been a found footage film where all of the footage could have legitimately come from the ‘found’ source. This film is no different in that regard. I am nitpicking I know. But if these things take me outside of the world of the film, then that reduces my overall enjoyment so I think they have to be mentioned.
For all its flaws, Chronicle is really original. I would prefer something try to be this original and not 100% successful rather than aim for just ‘good’ and get there. This film functions effectively both as a pretty good teen drama and a realism laced superhero film. Take a look.
Verdict: Stubby of Reschs
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