Enjoyable Teen Superpower Movie Named Poorly

By brian longtin • Feb 14th, 2012 • Category: watching • Popularity: 34%

Chronice’s use of cameras does little to outweigh the multiple awkward exchanges it causes, and yet remains a solid entry in the superhero genre.

Chronicle is a palate cleansing comic book movie for those of us who skipped all twelve that came out last year and are waiting patiently for another Dark Knight. The intimate story of friendship and teen angst underneath the special effects is definitely original and well-executed enough to make it worth seeing. No time is wasted finding a far-fetched explanation for why its heroes can do what they do and how they should use their powers to right past wrongs. That’s boring, so they skip it. In fact, our heroes don’t really focus on any acts of heroism, for the most part. It’s a movie about what actual young people might actually do upon suddenly finding themselves with super-human abilities, complete with the bad decisions they might make. Like only the good parts of Hancock done right (there were some good parts, come on, be fair), Chronicle is willing to take the darker side of the ‘regular, screwed-up human beings with incredible abilities’ story where it deserves to be taken.

But why is it called Chronicle, and why is it force-fit into this ‘found footage’ schtick? It’s not as if I have a problem with the genre; I love it when it’s at its best and used for the right reasons. I’m not even saying that a first-person or found-footage superhero movie is a terrible idea. But I get a distinct feeling that it was a gimmick used to get this particular movie pitched and made, not a tool used in service to better storytelling. In fact, I challenge anyone to tell me how that choice added to the film in any way — with points awarded only if the rationale outweighs the multiple distractingly awkward exchanges necessary to justify the camera’s constant presence.

Let’s examine the a few low points required to stick to the form. The worst offender was Blogger Girl, whose camera usage was so unnatural all I could think about was how incredibly boring her blog must be. She films people coming to her door at home, with herself framed perfectly in a nearby mirror, in the absolute height of narcissistic tedium. Then there’s the ultimate cringe-moment, during a line where Good Guy (I’m really bad at remembering character names) straight-up asks Tortured Guy “Do you really need to look at everything through that camera? It’s like you’re trying to put distance between you and the rest of the world!” — and Tortured Guy totally takes the bait and says, “Maybe I do” [pout]. I know the only reason they brought Boring Mopey Guy along to the cave of superpowers in the first place was because he had a camera, but his cousin could have easily said, “Hey, you look lonely, come check this out,” instead of Popular Guy saying, “Hey, you have a camera, come check this out.” Done.

Also, that last shot was totally weird and forced and a waste of a perfectly good piece of electronics.

Without the camera gimmickry the film is a down-to-earth superpower movie with great highs and lows, like realizing what they can do with these powers, and then dealing with consequences when they overreach. It has interesting moral questions, like how and when it’s okay to use power over others for your own gain. It works in teenage coming-of-age drama and parallels to Columbine and classic comic stories like The Killing Joke’s ‘One Bad Day’ premise. Guess what guys, that’s enough to make an interesting film on it’s own. Or rather, your movie is interesting despite your having leaned on an unnecessary stylistic decision. Next time out, call it Powerkidz for all I care. Just keep the cameras in your hands, not your characters’, unless you have a better reason than a cute idea for a title.

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brian longtin knows some very different things would have went down were this an R-rated movie about super-powered teen guys.
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One Response »

  1. Wait…just so we’re clear…you were not a fan of the “found footage” gimmick?

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