The post where I declare my love for Chronicle and make a revelation
Do you think movie bloggers carry a secret wanna-be-dream about getting a job in the film industry? Do we write about movies instead of making them ourselves since we lack the right talent and dedication?
Normally my answer would be a decided “NO”. If you’re foolish enough to spend hours each day blogging for no other reward than possibly a comment once in a while and some virtual hugging, you’re not doing it because you think it will award you a ticket into the business. You do it because you’re in love with writing, in love with the world of cinema and probably also because you’re a little bit of an exhibitionist (even though you’d rather die than admit it).
But there are exceptions. Once in a while I stumble upon a movie that fills me with so much love and amazement over the infinite possibilities of the film medium that the thought crosses my mind: “I want to do this too!”
This was what happened when I watched the recent science fiction movie Chronicle.
I went into it with barely any previous knowledge at all, apart from that it was a “found footage” film about some teenagers who gained super powers in some mysterious way and tried them out, not necessarily to save the world like a traditional super hero, but for more egotistical reasons.
My expectations weren’t overly high to be honest. Thor and X-men: First class were both among my lowest rated movies in 2011. I just don’t seem to mix very well with film about people with super powers. Admittedly I eagerly await the return of the Dark Knight, but he doesn’t count, does he? Isn’t he more of a talented guy with good equipment than like someone with unearthly abilities?
In any case, Chronicle won me over. When I went out from the theatre 1 hour and 20 minutes later (yep, they still do movies as short as that), I had a childish, happy, enchanted smile on my face. And I sent a tweet: “Do you think they’ll accept a 44 yr old at film school”? I wasn’t entirely serious about the question, but I immediately received a number of encouraging replies from tweeting film bloggers claiming my chances were good. Of course it was a lie, but a sweet one.
What I liked
I don’t want to go too much into the story because I think this is the kind of film that gains from not knowing too much about it on beforehand
But here are a few examples of what I liked about it:
1. The focus
In a standard movie on this theme, you would expect a scientist to turn up sooner or later, going into some quasi scientific explanations about why they got the abilities and how they work. In a standard movie you’d also spend a lot of time following how society responds, throwing in some plot that included boring adults in the form of police or military who would try to either stop or take advantage of the kids.
But this isn’t a standard movie and it makes nothing of this. It focuses on what’s going on with the teenagers, on their everyday ordinary life, on where they’re coming from, on how the abilities mix into this and about what happens in the group as they develop. This focus makes it far more engaging than it otherwise would have been and brings it to a different level.
2. The characters
The main characters aren’t altogether “good” people. They have flaws. But unlike in the case of Attack the Block I found myself sympathising with them, caring about their wellbeing and future.
3. The found footage theme
Yes, you read me right. I like found footage! I know others complain about it being done and over with but I don’t mind as long as it’s well done and I think it is in Chronicle. I rather enjoyed how the film makers challenged themselves to make every shot make sense. Apart from the filming of one of the boys who just has gotten a camera of his own, they’re using a multitude of different sources such as surveillance cameras and various people’s cell phones. This brings a bit of variety. I would even go as far as to say that there are scenes where the shaky hand camera approach adds a bit of atmosphere. Especially in the scenes where they’re testing out certain abilities it gives a feeling of urgency and “this is happening for real”.
4. The visuals
Considering the fairly modest budget for being a movie in this genre (12 million dollars) I think it’s quite good from a visual standpoint. There’s no shortage of special effects and a couple of scenes are even a bit jaw dropping.
Didn’t drop the ball
So don’t I have anything negative to say? Well, I suppose that would be the ending, which maybe didn’t hold quite the same class as the rest of the movie. It contained elements that were… well… I don’t know how to put it without spoiling stuff. Kind of cheesy you could say. I hesitated for a moment but then I decided to go for it and just accept it. It wasn’t perfect, but it wasn’t so bad that they ruined the film. They didn’t drop the ball.
I predict that Chronicles will be a strong contender for the category “best debut feature” as we’ll be making our summaries for 2012. The director Josh Trank and the screenwriter Max Landis are both in their mid 20s. They really couldn’t have started their careers in a better way.
Chronicle (Josh Trank, US, 2012) My rating: 4/5
PS FYI: Yes, as you realize by this post, I’m on Twitter and No, I haven’t told you about it since I’m not sure of what I’m doing there or if it will be long lasting. But the address isn’t a secret, so if you want to a not overly active tweeter, you’ll find me at @Thevelvetcafe.