Thursday, July 26, 2012

Penny Thoughts ‘12—Chronicle (2012) **½

PG-13, 84 min.
Director: Josh Trank
Writers: Max Landis, Josh Trank
Starring: Dane DeHaan, Alex Russell, Michael B. Jordan, Michael Kelly, Ashley Hinshaw

“Chronicle” is another 2012 release that almost works, but not quite. It shows us what might happen in the real world if some ordinary people were suddenly imbued with superpowers. Its failure does not come in its story, but in its execution. Even that might’ve worked just fine if not for a poor stylistic choice by the filmmakers.

Point of view movies are all the rage in Hollywood in these days of personal video recording devices. It seems every month sees another movie come out with its story being told by a character capturing the events on a video camera. The method is popular and allows filmmakers to operate with a lower budget due to less expensive filming techniques and no name stars. I believe here it is also a stylistic choice in order to sell the notion that what is depicted could be real.

However, the audience is already suspending its disbelief in order to accept the superpowers as real in the context of the story. I don’t believe any more sales on the realism are necessary. The problem is that the filmmakers want to show things here that are not practical for someone to record in the moment. Yet the entire film is shot as if the protagonist is filming all of it. It isn’t necessary for him to film everything. He can film some things, and the movie can show his point of view at those times, but at other times a third person narrative would be more appropriate for this story.

The hero is an angry kid. Kind of a nerd, whose cousin seems to take responsibility for because his mother is dying of cancer and his father is a drunk. His cousin forces him to go to a party one evening in one of the sequences where the first person point of view is extremely forced. They and another boy discover a hole in the ground near the party and they enter it. After something inexplicable they emerge to discover they have the power to move things with their minds. The nerdy kid seems to have more of a knack for it than the other two. Soon he becomes drunk with his own power. His poor quality of life adds to his anger and the idea that power placed in the wrong hands being dangerous becomes all too real for his “friends.”

Like I said, the story could work very well if the first person narrative dictated by the POV practical camera work didn’t restrict it. The later passages really require a third person narrative to tell it and the dependence of the character to film everything becomes a strained concept. I would’ve liked to see these themes explored in another way.

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