Film Review – Chronicle

 

Superhero movies, found footage movies, teen angst movies. All old hat, been there done that. But this film has managed to breathe new life into all three at once.

There’s a lot to say about this film- unfortunately, a lot of it hinges on some major plot points, and, not being a fan of spoilers in film reviews, I’m going to tread as carefully as I can.

Firstly, the “found-footage” issue. It’s certainly an over-used gimmick, but here I found it absolutely essential to the film’s success. To begin with, it gives us a diary-like insight into our lead’s mental state. We see his life as he sees it and, for the most part, you’re with him as his life spirals out of his control. In a lot of superhero movies, it’s difficult to feel involved when two characters are knocking seven bells out of each other in increasingly spectacular ways. It’s fun to watch, but you don’t feel the punches. However, when a similar scene is viewed via grainy, silent, CCTV footage, it takes on a whole new resonance that actually makes you flinch.

The film begins in a manner that is unexpectedly brutal. You witness the main character being bullied at home and at school, and the video camera footage helps sell the reality of sudden, abrupt, unjust violence.

The relationship amongst the three leads is also interesting and well-told, climaxing in the epic finale as two characters do wrong things for what they believe to be the right reasons.

The film does have its slow moments, and a few goofs here and there (when filming a mirror, you can’t suddenly pan around whilst your mirror image stays still), but for me it was a film that ticked the right boxes in the right way. If I hadn’t been so keen to see The Woman in Black, I might have gone straight back in to watch it again.

 

4 Comments

  1. Gerard McGarry

    I saw this one a couple of weeks back. There’s something to be said for a superhero movie that doesn’t come from one of the big comic book franchises. Fresh origin story, and a more Misfits style of earthy realism. The three leads were distinctly human, flawed but essentially dealing with all manner of teenage crap being thrown at them.

    It was a good thing that the source of the boys’ powers wasn’t explored during the movie. It would have been stereotypical and derailed the spiralling out of control of the boys’s lives. I wanted to empathise with the bullied child (Josh?), but it became apparent that his powers brought major paranoia with them and a dark resentment of everybody else, his friends included. And that ending, the final battle was so tragic – and like you said, realistic – that it was hard NOT to be moved by it.

    Though there’s one question I asked myself after the movie and I wanted to ask you, Simon: do you think it’s setting the scene for a sequel, and would you want to see an exploration of the thing-in-the-hole that gave the boys their powers?

    1. Simon Williams

      I’m going to try to answer your question as best I can without being too spoiler-y for those who read this before seeing the film (including character names)!

      I absolutely agree re: the teen angst thing. The superhero/supervillain path has never been better presented, in my opinion. I was with him for so long, then absolutely felt for his cousin as he tried so hard to get him to see things in perspective. It was like an almost literal allegory on Bipolar disorder.

      I saw the ending (i.e. the very last minute or so) as that character’s way of dealing with what he had done. It has been much-criticised and certainly is rather emotionally manipulative in its execution, but for me it was the perfect ending in completing the story, especially the emotional arc. After the climactic events, everything will have changed. The status quo in Seattle was no longer an option for him, so he left the life he knew in pursuit of something new. It was an escape, a conclusion, an explanation and an apology all in one.

      As for a sequel set-up, I don’t think so, and I sort of hope not. If anything, the last few minutes seal off that option, at least for that character. Without that ending, I’d say it’s more open for a sequel. (Is he celebrated or arrested? I’d like to think the latter, but suspect a sequel would have to go for the former.) They could opt for his adventures as he travels the world, escaping after each incident, but with this film’s footage being so spectacular, it’s bound to have gone viral worldwide, so he would have to travel to isolated places or he’d be recognised everywhere. To turn him into a publicly-lauded superhero after the climactic events of his film would undermine his character’s itegrity.

      As for the hole, it was filled in so they’d have to come up with a story similar to this one, where it turns out that someone else had discovered it- but that would be repetitive and I feel that might cheapen this film. That, or it’s the beginning of some alien invasion or something, which would take the franchise in a totally different direction.

      I’m hoping, like Cloverfield, we learn no more. No matter how desperately I’d like to!

      1. Gerard McGarry

        Hi Simon, I just wanted to pick up on this:

        As for a sequel set-up, I don’t think so, and I sort of hope not. If anything, the last few minutes seal off that option, at least for that character. Without that ending, I’d say it’s more open for a sequel.

        I kind of disagree though – Matt distinctly said during that same final soliloquy that he was going to find out how this happened to them, which implied to me that the script was pointing towards a more conventional sequel where he hunted down whatever was responsible for giving the boys their powers.

        Either way, I kind of agree that a sequel wouldn’t work – for a few reasons.

        1. Delving into the source of their powers: well, it’s going to be either an extraterrestrial cause – suggested by the artefact they found – or they stumbled upon a top-secret government experiment that went wrong. Both are well trodden cliches and I don’t think they’d satisfy the moviegoer who appreciated Chronicle for what it was.
        2. I don’t know if Matt on his own could carry the story. My favourite parts were when the three guys were together, discovering their powers and having fun together. How would they round out the cast without ‘discovering’ more super-powered teens? I don’t know.

        What I’m saying is that if there is a setup for a sequel, they’ve left it pointing at a scenario that’s already been covered a million times before.

        1. Simon Williams

          Yes I agree, although I saw that line as something of a placeholder for a sequel, rather than a set up for one. You know what he’ll be doing next, even if you don’t get to see it. Maybe it’s my lack of imagination, but I don’t really see how him hunting down the source would be very cinematic, especially to fill a whole film. He has very little to go on, other than digging up the hole, and wandering around the weird glowing thing (Plant? Spaceship? Alien? Buried experiment? Entrance to a secret underground community?). If he finds some kind of label reading “property of Acme Industries” or “US Government”, it would be so contrived. And yes, it was the characters’ relationships that sold this film, rather than the characters themselves.

          However, I did get the implication from the film that their power will actually kill them in the end (nose bleeds, like coughs, are usually movie short-hand for “dying”), so I interpreted this as his final quest before his short life ends. Not that he’d know that, of course.

          If they make a sequel,  I’d be prepared to see it, but it would have to be something they’d thought of from the beginning to really work. I have my suspicions about the girl with the camera- there may be more to her role than the occasional use of her footage. But if they go down the Blair Witch/Human Centipede route of referencing the film itself, I won’t be attending.

          Either way, I need to see this film again to satisfy myself it’s as good as I remember it being.

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