It is not often I sit in the cinema struggling to place the faces of the stars on screen.
It is not often I sit in the cinema struggling to place the faces of the stars on screen. I realised about 10 minutes in that I should give up because the ensemble were all newcomers to cinema and I might as well relax and enjoy the film. And enjoy the film I did!
To summarise without ruining, Chronicle is about a group of teenagers who gain superhuman telekinetic powers, which is great fun for the first half of the film but then the storyline goes much darker.
The ‘superpower’ type of sci-fi film is not exactly unexplored territory. Marvel Films feeds on it, but the difference between Chronicle and previous superpower films, is the hand-held camera directing, realistic relationships, low budget feel and the lack of clichés.
There are no scary aliens, hero costumes, American flags or eerie men in suits and sunglasses (although there is one damsel in distress but she is not nearly as shrieky or pathetic as Kirsten Dunst in Spiderman). The teenagers who gain these powers, do not quickly recognise that they should to use them to fight crime (comic book style) and neither do they get discovered by the authorities and have to live a life of action and deception until they are outed to the world and eventually accepted.
In fact, the boys just mess around, play pranks, move a woman’s car, blow girl’s skirts up, pretty normal activities for high school kids. These parts of the film are by far the most successful and touching. Yes, one of them is the ‘popular kid’, the other the ‘cool stoner’ and the third is the ‘bullied weirdo’ but the ability of the actors to transcend their stereotypes and form believable, identifiable characters is superb. Whenever one of them tries something new with his powers the others guffaw, giggle and cry ‘that’s soooo cool man!’ For example, the discovery of the ability to fly is followed by a scene of such elation and mild vertigo, better than anything in Superman.
Inevitably, with that kind of ability, one of characters is going to go a bit naughty. Although we know why the tumble into aggravation and battle occurs, it is just not convincing. The beginning is all fun, laughter and bromance, the end is a disaster movie with a battle sequence reminiscent of Neo vs. Mr. Smith in Matrix Revolutions (that’s 2 hours I will never get back). It’s the middle of the film which does not quite work. It is not that I don’t understand the build up of emotional events, the back story of trauma, the taut familial relationships; it is more that those elements of the story do not make the character’s collapse into rage and evil credible. I reckon the director was also unconvinced with this character arc, which is why he added the ‘apex predator’ theory to justify the moral downfall but that idea remains unexplained and a bit awkward.
But to conclude, Chronicle is a great first film for the director and his stars; they try something new with old sci-fi ideas, old camera techniques and create a modern film with likeable, believable characters, humour and wonderful visual effects. The plot had to step it up for the end, as films do, and it is at that moment where the film starts to loose its credibility but at least Chronicle never stops being engaging and enjoyable.