film review: Chronicle (2012)5 Comments
There was a plethora of new film releases this week, from a raft of genres, but on paper, this is the one I was most interested in.
Chronicle chronicles the story of three high school boys who find themselves with the somewhat unusual ability to move objects with their minds… or, you know, telekenisis. So it’s kind of a sci-fi film and if you don’t know already, I’m a sucker for any film with a bit of sci-fi in it.
A lot of people are calling this a superhero film, but personally I think that belies a narrative that really is a little more complex. It’s not a superhero film. Just because you have extraordinary powers, doesn’t make you a superhero. This is much closer to a coming-of-age / teen drama, more Carrie than Captain America if you will. And it’s far more interesting because of it.
Now I have a no spoiler policy on this site so I’m not going into what exactly happens to makes this film different rather, what makes it admirable. With Chronicle, Josh Trank and Max Landis (son of John Landis, in case you were wondering) have set out with a relatively small budget, to make a genre film with a splash of originality. Something which is so often lacking in films about teens. These days, all that seems to happen to teens is that they fall in love. Or get wasted. Or both.
Trank and Landis take their three central characters, put them in a fantastical situation and, I believe, manage to create realistically immature and distinct responses for the three of them. Which is not to say that the characters are perfectly drawn… It’s short runtime means that it relies on us recognising certain tropes. Which is fine as a storytelling device, except that one of them could have done with a little more work – I didn’t know who he was meant to be and thus some of his actions were a little confusing. To be generous I’m going to say that perhaps he’s a stereotype who’s little used in film and if you’d gone to an American high school, perhaps he’s very recognisable… *shrug*
There are decent performances all round from the cast. Dean DeHaan has the most interesting role so he’s probably one to watch for the future. In real life they’re all a little older than they should be but I think they pull it off. The jovial relationship enjoyed between the three very different characters comes off as eminiently believable and, as their powers increase, the way their relationships change is well handled by the script and the actors.
However, while I enjoyed the film, it’s not without it’s faults… It could have been 5-10 mins longer and slightly refocused – spending a little less time spent on the powers and a little more on the characters would have led to a tighter film and set us up a bit better for the ending. Speaking of the ending, I thought it was good, I imagine a lot of the budget was spent on it and it looked decent for a $15 million dollar film. It may not sound that cheap but for what they were trying to do, it kind of is.
The biggest, biggest problem I have with Chronicle is that it’s “found footage“. I tire of found footage. I find it gimmicky and I just don’t see the point. Ok, it works for some films – as much as I disliked 2/3 of the Paranormal Activity films, the whole home video / CCTV thing made sense – here not so much… I can see no reason this couldn’t have just been shot normally. It would have avoided two big question marks – Why do they keep shooting? Who edited this footage? It takes you out of the film for no good reason.
So, yeah, if you can get past the whole “found footage” thing, Chronicle is a surprisingly good watch. I’m not sure it would entirely be worth paying the £15 peak time ticket price of a Leicester Square cinema – especially with the decent, not mind-blowing, effects – but it’s well worth your €10.