Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Chronicle [2012]

Director: Josh Trank
Cast: Dane DeHaan, Alex Russell, Michael B. Jordan, Michael Kelly, Ashley Hinshaw
Genre: Science fiction/Drama
Rating: Teen
Excerpt: "Surprisingly good, primarily because the whole handheld camera cinematography didn't feel like a gimmick..."

Social outcast Andrew (Dane DeHaan) who lives with his abusive father and a terminally ill mother, decides to do something new in his life by purchasing a camera that he's going to carry around with him all the time. This seemingly insignificant decision leads to him cross paths with the popular kid in school Steve (Michael B. Jordan), who also happens to be a good friend of his cousin, Matt (Alex Russell). With Steve urging him on, Andrew records their escapade in a mysterious crater, after which the three teenagers miraculously gain superhuman abilities. Possessing great power but no sense of responsibility, the three of them unwittingly lead themselves down the path to their own downfall.

What to Expect
1. A rather disorienting start
2. Impeccable buildup to an amazing climax
3. Amazing aerial sequences
4. Nail-biting moments
5. The presentation might be off-putting to some

What NOT to Expect
1. A superhero movie
2. A tedious origin story
3. A happy, feel-good movie
Even I am surprised by how much I like it
It does look like 2012 in film is having a good start, with the previously reviewed Relationship Status also hovering in the "Don't miss it!" gauge of the Mamümeter. When it came to this movie, however, I had to sit back and pondered about it for a bit because I was wondering if there's anything else going on in my life right now that's making me feel all generous about my ratings.

So I thought about it, and yes, I am sure about this rating because being objective is a skill I've been working on long and hard to gain. With that being said, I think Chronicle is a masterpiece in its own merit for one reason alone; The presentation and subject matter were woven together rather seamlessly, which made it feel fresh and original.

So if you saw the trailer and were somehow hoping to see a superhero movie in "found footage" form - a gimmick made popular by several horror and monster movies - you might get downright disappointed because Chronicle never sought out to feature any spandex-wearing self-righteous superhuman rescuing damsels in distress while foiling real estate scams by his archenemy.

Although I do find it amusing that they cast a square-jawed, Tom Welling-esque looking guy in a supporting role.

But then again, you might be pleasantly surprised (as I was) by how the artistic liberties were limited to the superpower parts. It was apparent that the film-makers were intent on maintaining as much realism as they can by putting more emphasis on "teenager", a little less on "superpowers" while staying well within the "Science fiction" label. In other words, it was a movie about teenagers with superpowers that doesn't kick your suspension of disbelief in the balls before stuffing it into a giant cannon and shooting it out into space.

Please understand that it was the first time I bothered to go see a movie in this "found footage" form, so I had my reservations regarding how they were going to make it work. Conventionally, we as audience act like voyeurs or an omniscient being who's acutely aware of what's going on. But most of the time it also means that we get fed with a bunch of details we can do without. This is especially true for superhero movies like Ghost Rider [2007] and Green Lantern [2011]. Did you even need to go see them?

Chronicle, on the other hand, didn't use this handheld camera approach as a gimmick, and it showed that a lot of thought went into it. Of course you would have to fill in the blanks every now and then, which can be disorienting at first. But once you get the hang of it, the movie impeccably builds up to the climax, and I'm going to have to say that the aerial sequences are the biggest pay-off of the movie. It's something like this, but a million times cooler.

You would also be delighted to see that not only they nailed it in the special effects department, but they didn't run short in the acting department either. Don't get me wrong, this is not the place to look for an Oscar nomination. But I think you would be shortchanging lead actor Dane DeHaan if you don't at least acknowledge his performance. I shall not elaborate much on this as it might lead to a spoiler, even if the trailer had already alluded on what's going to happen in plain view.

Simply put, it was the kind of buildup George Lucas tried to make using three Star Wars prequels (and failed), but the fellows at Chronicle succeeded with just this one. Kudos to DeHaan for complementing all that hard work from the rest of the production team. Just watch out for the action sequence near the end to know what I mean.

Add all that up, I would say that it's still a bit of an acquired taste. I foresee that Chronicle's marriage of visual style and subject matter, although well made, will divide the audience. Those not in favour might summarise it as "a movie about superpowered teens camwhoring", and it's a little hard to argue with the idea because they kind of have a point.

You see, despite the excellent buildup, there were extended shots of the lead character staring solemnly into the camera like something out of a pretentious art movie. I'm going to go out on a limb and assume that it will only hinder the movie-watching experience if you at any point lost track or interest in the plot.

But hey, what do I know? I really enjoyed the movie.


mwaa2009 said...

It's the first movie I watched this year, and to me it's a brilliant start. I loved it too.

Zulfahmi said...

I love found footage...

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