Monday, February 20, 2012

Chronicle review; so much more than a "superhero" film

We often see a trailer and make an assumption as to what the rest of the movie will be about.  I have this conversation with my movie friends all the time; a trailer totally misses the point of a movie in hopes of selling tickets.  Or, it's a good thing the trailer didn't give away everything.  That's the case with Chronicle.  A trailer that sold us on a "superhero" film could not be further from the truth.  It is so much more, let's go.

What I liked about the film:
The Writer/Story
Max Landis has turned in a wonderful script.  It is a found footage film, reminiscent of Cloverfield and The Blair Witch Project before it.  It follows three high school students as they gain telekinetic powers.  Landis crafted a character study into three very different characters, dealing with all kinds of issues.  The story arc is terrific, it's cut tight and there is no fluff in the movie at all.  The dialogue was believable and relatable.

The Director
This was 26 year old Josh Trank's first feature film!  If you've seen the film, you'll understand how spectacular that feat is.  I've mentioned that the movie is definitely a character study, but trust me, there's plenty of great action.  When reviewing The Artist, I mentioned how much harder it must have been to direct a silent film, as apposed to your average movie.  I think the same goes for Trank and his found footage style. As an audience, we need to believe the characters are doing most of the videotaping.  So he's limited as far as the tools at hand.  It sounds like he's getting a lot of attention after this movie and should have no problem getting work!

The Action
The action is great, and unique in many ways.  There are simple scenes, like the friends learning how to use their powers.  Something as simple as throwing a baseball with their minds.  Then there are scenes of the characters flying through the sky, which look great.  All of this leads to an all out battle in the streets of Seattle.  Great choreography and execution here.

The Actors
Michael B. Jordan  plays the popular kid that wouldn't normally be friends with the other two.  He has the smallest character arc, but does a nice job bringing charisma to the role.  Alex Russell plays one of the friends, an average Joe who definitely cares about his image.  Russell's character is cousins with the Dane DeHaan character.  DeHaan is no doubt the star of the show.  He has the biggest character arc in the film.  The first person footage is mostly shot by DeHaan's character.  His character is abused by his alcoholic father (played by veteran Michael Kelly), his mother is dying of cancer, and he is a nobody in school.  There is one scene involving a spider that summarizes DeHaan's character.  He acts with his eyes alone and is fantastic.  DeHaan starts to videotape everything, almost as if it's therapy.  This is an important point; it more than justifies the found footage technique used throughout the film.

What I didn't like about the film:
The Budget
It's too bad innovative, creative directors don't get more support for their original ideas.  There were a few scenes where Josh Trank would have benefited by a larger budget.  Some of the special effects were lacking, but he did wonders with the budget he WAS provided.  It's just frustrating that directors like Mark Steven Johnson and Brett Ratner get huge budgets and turn in crap like Ghost Rider and X-Men: The Last Stand respectively.  Hollywood needs more directors like Trank and Christopher Nolan, who are willing to take a risk on original material like Chronicle and Inception, RESPECTIVELY.

The Verdict:
I loved it
Simply put, it was so much more than I could have asked for.  The characters are rich and come about in a difficult technique of found footage material.  The writer, director and actors have put together a great film that will satisfy teens and adults alike.  The special effects could have used a little bit more money, but it wasn't a deal breaker.  I suggest everyone goes and sees this movie, it was a great ride.

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