Monday, February 13, 2012

Chronicle (2012)

Title: Chronicle (2012)

Director: Josh Trank

Cast: DaneDehaan, Alex Russell, Michael B. Jordan  


Chronicle is one of the best telekinesis movie I have seen to date and trust me; I have seen a lot of them! Okay, maybe it aint better then David Cronenberg's Scanners (1981), but it definitely ranks way up there in my list of best telekinesis movies ever. If you want to know a bit more about films dealing with telekinesis, check out this article I wrote a while back called ‘A Mind is A Powerful Thing to Waste (Telekinesis Movies)’ where I list a bunch of telekinesis movies, amongst them the great Japanese animation classic Akira (1988). But seriously, they should’ve just called Chronicle Akira (1988)! Chronicle has so many similarities with Akira that I honestly felt like I was watching an Americanized version of it. True, Chronicle borrows quite a lot from Akira, but it does it so well and with such pizzazz that I’m not complaining. In fact, Chronicle gave me hope for the kind of things we might be seeing in the proposed  Akira film, which has been in development hell for quite some time. Directors for the proposed film adaptation of Akira have come and gone, writers have changed, actors have been attached and detached, but the film  never seems to actually take off. Last time I checked, it was Jaume Collet Serra, the director behind Orphan (2009) and House of Wax (2005). This is all understandable, after all, Akira is an epic and complex tale requiring a skilled filmmaker to do it, this film shouldn’t be handed to just anyone.

Chronicle plays like a simpler version of Akira, it takes place in our time, without the post-apocalyptic background, the political turmoil or the motorcycle gangs.. Story focuses on three teenagers who stumble upon an alien rock that suddenly gives them telekinetic powers. One day they are normal teenagers, the other they can move cars with the power of their minds. At first it’s all pranks, fun and games but things turn ugly when one of the three suddenly decides to use his powers to get back at anybody who ever messed with him. Suddenly, the worm has turned and there is going to be hell to pay! 

So yeah, first off this is a “found footage film” which means we see the film through the footage that somebody shot with a hand held camera. I recently reviewed Apollo 18 (2012); a found footage film about a lunar mission gone horribly wrong and in that review I talked a bit about how much I enjoy a well made found footage film. To me they bring me that much more closer to the action, they feel that much more in your face. Not to mention that when done right, realism levels can sky rocket, which is what happened with Chronicle, a film in which some situations and events are way more intense simply because of the documentary style. It also plays around with camera angles. Instead of always having the shaky cam jumping about, at some points the camera hovers around the characters because they make the camera float with the power of their minds, which I thought was a pretty nifty idea. It also gives viewers a breather from the “shaky cam” which  some viewers can get exhausted with.  

Some don’t seem to like this kind of film, or have grown tired of them (there’s so many of them  out there) but I say we better get used to them because this is simply another way to tell stories, another style and apparently it’s here to stay. One reason why found footage films are proliferating so much is because they are cheaper to make and at times like these, when the economy has affected even Hollywood, well, even Hollywood is cutting back in expenses. These films are usually shot on digital, with new actors that don’t cost producers a lot of money. A well made found footage film can cost anywhere from 11,000 dollars like Paranormal Activity (2007) to 5 million dollars like Apollo 18 (2012). Either way, these are cheaper films, certainly less then your regular Hollywood film. This is the reason why found footage films have proliferated so much these days. But anyways, I don’t really care why they are making them so much, I enjoy the “in your face” aspect of these films a whole lot. They got a bit more adrenaline infused into them. 

Thematically, the film plays with exactly the same themes that Akira addresses, mainly, the abuse of power. Once we have incredible amounts of power (as do the kids in this movie) should we succumb to abusing it? Should we allow ourselves to be corrupted by it? Or should we learn to harness it? Spiderman said that with great power comes great responsibility, which is true, but what happens when you give all that power to a nerd that was always picked on before? To a boy who suffers from physical abuse from his drunken father?  Will this new found power fuel his desires for revenge? This is to me where the film was most similar to Akira, because on Akira we have the same exact situation, Tetsuo is a young kid who gets picked on all the time, so when he gets his powers all he wants is to seek out the respect he was due. Other similarities involve the main character running around in hospital robes destroying everything in his path with his new found telekinetic powers; the visual alone should be enough to spark any anime fans memory. If you ask me, the director of this film, 26 year old Josh Trank should be given the chance to direct the Akira film! But alas, apparently he’s already been offered the opportunity to direct the upcoming Fantastic Four reboot for Marvel. Lucky dude! He’s already moving on up! And Chronicle was his first film! He’s got the makings of a promising director; I’m looking forward to whatever he’s making next.

What Chronicle does right is that it truly exploits the telekinesis angle to full extent. It really plays with the ideas of moving things with the power of your mind. While some films only do it in a half assed way, like for example PUSH (2009), which to me was a horrible film, Chronicle takes it all the way! It gets epic in scale and goes further than I expected it to go with its ideas. While watching it I felt like when I watched Superman II (1981) for the first time. When I first saw Superman II as a kid, that epic battle between Superman, Zod and his cronies was the epitome of ‘epicness’ for me. It was the ultimate superhero battle. Keep in mind this was way before the onslaught of superhero movies we have today, this was during the 80’s when superhero movies were rare. Watching Zod and Supes playing catch with buses and hurling billboards at each other was the ultimate rush for me! Watching Chronicle reminded me of that kind of feeling you get when you watch an epic battle between two ultra powerful beings wrecking the city, done absolutely right. The effects were quite good on this one!   

Another positive aspect of the film is that it takes its time in developing its characters. Before things get blown out of proportion, we slowly get to know these three fellows and how they come upon such fantastical powers. We get to see how they first learn to deal with their new found powers and how they learn to master them, to control them. Basically for a wile the film turns into an origin story; that first film you watch where they lay down all the rules of the game and show us how everything started. But after that introductory phase, the movie picks up and never let’s down, in fact, it gets completely out of control and jumps straight into “freaking awesome” territory. Highly recommend it! The last half of the movie is well worth the price of admission. It was a fast paced jolt of excitement, looking forward to seeing what Josh Trank will be directing next!

Rating: 4 1/2 out of 5


Jack Thursby said...

Caught this at the cinema last week. Really enjoyed it. A lot of writers can't capture the way teenagers act and talk but I thought Landis did a pretty good job.

The story was a little predictable but the idea of presenting it through intimate first person sequences gave it a fresh edge.

The parallels with Akira were huge. I'm hoping that Warner will drop the idea of doing a live-action version. It's a really redundant idea. Particularly now this film exists.

Franco Macabro said...

Jack: I personally hope that they dont drop the idea, Akira is a whole lot more epic in scale, plus the setting is slightly futuristic, I'd love to see the bike gangs going about the city in their super huge futuristic motorcycles!

True, Chronicle stole the premise, but Akira has many more elements that never made it into Chronicle that I'd like to see come alive in a live action film.

I think Chronicles could eventually end up making more money through word of mouth, after people see it, they tend to notice how much they underestimated it. I know I did!

George Beremov [Nebular] said...

Just posted my review of it. Thoroughly enjoyed it and thought it was extremely well-made and exciting to watch. I disagree that this is a 'found footage' film, because a footage has to be lost to be found, and this one certainly wasn't lost. LOL. :)

I think POV would be more accurate. Excellent review, I could not agree more with you. ;)

Aylmer said...

I saw this last week and really had a blast with it. I wonder if a live action American AKIRA would feel redundant after this, in the same way that I feel Vincenzo Natali's upcoming Neuromancer adaptation may be redundant in the post Matrix sci-fi scape. Don't get me wrong though, I'd love to see a 200 million dollar AKIRA movie. Done by the right people that is.

Jack Thursby said...

Yeah, I just feel like they are trying to really bring the budget for the live-action Akira down too far - what is it now £75 million? I can't see it coming out any good for that money.

Got to say the ending (the fight, not the tacked on Tibet bit) was really creatively filmed. I loved how this epic fight was getting caught in glimpses from other people's cameras.

Franco Macabro said...

@Nebular: I see what you mean, we actually see the film through many different cameras, from all over the place, I thought that was pretty original.

@Aylmer: Glad you liked Nebular!I guess we'll have to wait and see, though like I told Jack Thursby in a comment above, I feel that Akira has elements in it that never made it to Chronicle that might give it that extra edge it will need to separate itself from it and show us something we didnt see in Josh Trank's film.

I'd love to see that Neuromancer movie, I've tried to finish the book three times now but it's just so heavy, so complex, always half way through I get lost with the story...I still havent been able to finish it!

But what I've managed to read and grasp of it I've enjoyed.

@Jack Thursby: 75 million can get you a lot these days, especially with all the computer animation that's being used and all the CGI set extensions. LEt's hope for the best!

Agree about the ending, I always like to watch super powered brawls! This sequence reminded me of a similar sequence in Robocop 2, with both robots kicking the hell out of each other and destroying the city while they are at it.


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