Sunday, 27 January 2013

Chronicle by Josh Trank

I love this overused concept of regular people getting superpowers. I've watched Heroes, The 4400, Alphas, I Am Number 4, Push, a bit of Misfits, well, any thing that explores this idea. Chronicle is another attempt at this very same thing, regular guys, this time high-school aged, who are exposed to something and get, all three of them, telekinesis. There are, though, two things that give it some originality, one is the "footage found" filming - originating a film where you only see, hear, know what the camera knows - and the other is that these guys have a very different approach to having powers: they just try them. They don't become instant super-heroes or super-villains, they don't start fighting around to see who's the boss, they don't get followed by aliens or X-files like agents or whatever, they don't have a legacy, an ancient tutor, a prophecy, nothing. They get to live their lives however they decide to do it, with a growing power of telekinesis changing it progressively. So this is the best part of Chronicle, the story of three very different guys with extremely different lives, thoughts, beliefs and purposes that are suddenly hanging out everyday like best friends trying to figure out how much their lives and their world might be about to change. But they still get to play some pranks on people just for fun!
The main character, or at least the one we follow more closely because he is the one with the freak habit of filming everything he does, and also the one who gets more powerful with the telekinesis, is the messed up kid. His mother is dying of some chronic disease, his father is an ex-firemen living off the disability insurance pay after some accident and is a violent, frustrated and alcoholic man, he gets bullied at school, he's the prototypical messed up kid. And the film lets us see who he was, who he can become when things go better, but also how terrible he gets when they go wrong. His cousin Matt is a guy that has lived through high-school in the background because it's all too shallow and pointless and is now starting to understand he also let the not at all shallow stuff pass him by, even though he still had a philosopher's quote for ever situation. The third one, Steve, is the popular kid, but not into the I bully everyone motto, more of an I am a nice guy, cool all the time, no trouble, no complaints, all fun and games kind of guy.
It's of course the filming and the way the power is explored that get this plot away from the typical high-school boring film it could perfectly have become. But what adds to all this is that the messed up kid - his name is Andrew by the way - not only has the getting out of his shell, shyness and comfort zone kind of character development we're all tired of, he starts to look at himself all powerful and capable from an existential point of view, he gets that he is now the superior being, not any more just a human, and that leads to a better story (though not entirely original, of course).
The film does have some weird, not so well accomplished scenes, the camera is referenced too many times. the sharing between the new found mates seems at times hurried and unnatural. I also see the potential for a deeper look into these matters, I can clearly see how this could have been much better from the philosophical point of view, with a slower and more fleshed out development of the three characters.
As it is, Chronicle is no masterpiece but it is a good film, better than the average superpower myth stories, with a different direction and argument, without the tiresome submission of the main plot to a love interest.

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