Tuesday, February 7, 2012
In a genre that has been mined to the extent comic book/superhero based movies have, it has grown increasingly challenging for filmakers to bring anything fresh and original to a table that includes graniose tales of valor such as Thor, era spanning character examinations such as Watchmen, and gritty cinematic masterpieces such as The Dark Knight. However, with Chronicle filmakers achieve the seemingly impossible feat of breaking the mold of the typical "been there done that" superhero origin story we have all seen a million times before while still remaining faithful to the familiar heart and soul these films posesse, which, good or bad, always leave us coming back fore more.
The movie focuses on three high school seniors Andrew, Matt, and Steve. Andrew is very much the social outcast of the group. Aloof and introverted, he quietly suffers a wave of near constant opposition from both bullies at school and an abusive, alcoholic father at home. The fact that he has started carrying a camera with him everywhere does not help matters much either.
While Andrew is the loner, Steve on the other hand, is Mr. popularity. A model student and star athlete with charisma to spare, Steve is a shoe in for class president and has his sights set on an eventual career in politics.
If Andrew and Steve represent two personality extremes, than Matt is probably the most "middle of the road" personality wise. He is not a reclusive oddball like Andrew, who is also his cousin, while at the same time he is not a super outgoing social butterfly like Steve. I found Matt to be a near perfect representation of a typical late teens guy, shallow, self-involved, and uncertain of what course he wants to take with his life. That all changes later on as he is the character that undergoes the greatest change throughout the course of the film.
Early on in the movie, Matt coerces Andrew to go with him to a party. While there the two cross paths with Steve who persuades them to accompany him to check out something he happened to notice fall from the sky into the woods a ways off. The three embark into the forest were they discover a strange aperture in the earth leading to a metorite made of crystalline that erriely alters in color like a giant mood ring. They each come in contact with the mysterious space rock before promptly high talining it out of there when it starts to vibrate and come alive with some kind of elecritc charge.
After a narrow escape, the three discover that their brief exposure to the sattelite has somehow granted them with telekenetic abilities, allowing them to control and manipulate objects using only the power of their minds. Equally excited and curious, they begin to experiment with their newfound abilities moving baseballs, legos, etc. before field testing their abilities out in public in a series of very mischevious, very funny pranks with a telekenetic twist.
Like working out a muscle, the boys grow sronger and stronger in their abilities until they can eventually manipulate the weight of their own bodies and defy the laws of gravity itself . This leads to some of the most truly thrilling and breathtaking flying sequences I have ever seen performed in a movie. You vicariously experience the indescribable rush of giddy exhileration the boys feel as they tear through the clouds like demigods, laughing like maniacs playing tag and catch with a football over a thousand feet in the air. This was a blast to watch and was definately my favorite part of the movie.
The boys growing camraderie and friendship that is especially epitomized in the flying sequence give a raw emotional gut punch to the remainder of the film as events take take a very serious turn later on. What began as harmless fun and playful adolescant shenanigans quickly tailspins out of control as one of the boys tries using his powers to save the life of an infirm loved one, and later lashes out violently against society as a whole after his attemtps are botched after going to such extreme lengths to prevent the inevitable.
What ensues is a chaotic, high stakes battle for life and death through the streets of downtown Seattle as one character is pushed over the edge and takes a tragically villainous turn while another's conscious is awakened to the heartrending responsibilty of having to save his good friend from himself. Even if that means doing the unthinkable.
I really enjoyed this movie a lot. The young actors who play Andrew, Steve, and Matt each do a fine job and really make you feel an investment in the characters. The scenes showcasing the trio's telekenetic abilities are just a lot of fun to watch and marvel at both from a technical perspective as well as just plain geeky wish fulfillment of what it would actually be like to be able to manipulate matter and fly around like Superman. The "found footage" approach to how the movie was filmed can be a bit jarring at times but ultimately works in the story's favor giving a rough authenticity and documentary like feel to what is otherwise a pretty straight forward and uninvolved narrative.
In closing, I think this film has enough to please both hardcore fans of the genre and average Joe movie goers alike. In a medium dominated by epic blockbusters, Chronicle is truly a rare gem that dares to be different.