Directed by: Josh Trank
Running time: 84 minutes.
Now Showing is back after my sweet holiday at the Great Barrier Reef with my first review of a movie that had its first cinematic release during 2012! That’s right, I braved sharks and I’m still here to rant and rave about the movies that are screening at your local cinema or available at your nearest DVD shop. It would take a lot more than an reef full of sharks to prevent me from throwing my movie going opinions in people’s faces! But enough about that, let’s get down to business!
Now Showing this week is the film Chronicle, directed by industry new-comer Josh Trank. Chronicle is a “found-footage” film (man, I have a soft spot for those don’t I?) about three American teenagers who discover a weird-glowing-possibly-alien-or-possibly-experimental-military thing buried behind a high school rave party and inexplicably gain superpowers; specifically telekinesis. Once discovered, they go right ahead and muck around with their new abilities, rapidly growing in strength. But what they initially take as a blessing slowly starts to become extremely dangerous as they get more and more powerful…
I suppose the massive elephant in the room with this movie is that fact that it is a found-footage movie, and everyone seems to be really sick of those kinds of movies. And I understand why, it is a film convention that can fall flat on its face, especially when the filmmakers can’t find a good reason for the characters to happen to be filming these events. The latter Paranormal Activity suffer from this very much. When the more climactic or mundane situations get, the more we have to suspend our disbelief that the main characters would bother to keep recording. Some found-footage films can pull it off; the original Paranormal Activity was all about two people wanting to document a ghost, The Blair Witch Project again was about a group of people wanting to make a documentary about a legend in a forest so of course they want to record all their findings. But Chronicle was very hit and miss in this area of the genre. The main character Andrew starts the film by recording his abusive father threatening to hurt him, which made sense; I mean it’s recorded evidence that he could use against him. But then he states to him “I’m filming everything now,” and then goes on to film/cough-establish-to-the-audience-cough his school, cousin, his dying mother and his awful life. It was just so clunky and expositional, that he just suddenly decided to document his whole life for no real reason.
Speaking of clunky and expositional, I would go so far as to say that the whole beginning of this film was just boring. Like, Hugo boring (that’s right Margaret and David, come get me!). As soon as the main character was established as a “I’m a depressed, loner/outcast teenager whose life just sucks” character I just stopped caring. He wasn’t an outcast due to the usual reasons people are outcast at schools, you know, for not playing football or being intelligent or not being a complete douche-bag; he was an outcast because he had this weird fixation of just filming people around him and I could fully understand why people wouldn’t want to be around him. It’s not a reason for other people to pick on him or physically hurt him like they do (but we all know that all high school-ers are jerks) but it would make me very uncomfortable so I had no empathy for the guy. Again, I just didn’t care. Couple this lack of caring with the sheer silliness of the fact that there happened to be an alien/military/never explained device buried near the school rave that happened to give them super powers and it made for a very crappy introduction. Sure there were some character development moments that became relevant later but all in all it was just terrible.
But once we got past the terrible opening act, the movie suddenly became awesome! Once the movie had tripped and stumbled over the hurdle of getting three teenagers (Andrew, his cousin and the really popular guy in school) to gain telekinetic superpowers, it became interesting. The most interesting thing about the movie was that it didn’t simply go down the road that most “someone gains superpowers” movies do, that is that they realise they must use their powers to stop criminals ala Spiderman, X-Men, Green Lantern and Fantastic Four. Instead the boys do what any real boy would do: use their powers to commit pranks and play around. They mess with people’s minds, they learn to fly and play football at thirty seven thousand feet, they use their powers to put on the most amazing magic show anyone had ever seen, they do all the things I reckon I would do if I suddenly gain telekinesis. And that was just so entertaining, it was different; and different is good. I won’t spoil where the film goes, but it also explores the negative side of giving these kids such power and it was actually an interesting exploration.
Finally, I must tip my hat off to the special effects in the movie. Some of them were amazing! You could tell a few of them were low budget and seemed a bit fake, but all of that was forgiven after the climatic final scene of the film. It was a scene that rivals any superpower charged finale in the likes of the movies I listed above and does so from the varying perspectives of handicams, security cameras, mobile phones and news-helicopters. Let’s just say, it was awesome.
So if you have a taste for a very different “superhero” movie then I’d recommend you check this out. Don’t let the horrible opening act put you off; once it’s over the movie will spark your interest. It’s a good little film that came out of nowhere, and made by some decent new talent. That’s always good to see! But seriously Josh Trank, make a better opening next time, I won’t let you off the hook again.
See you next time!