Sunday, March 4, 2012

REVIEW - Chronicle has great power, but doesn't always use it responsibly


Take the accidental acquisition of mysterious superpowers combined with the POV style of filming (Cloverfield, Paranormal Activities, Blair Witch Project etc.) and make the protagonists High School students and you get Chronicle. This film is a bit difficult to review because I feel the script can be polarizing. If you are a teenager or younger you might be able to enjoy it more, but as a 20 something and above, the social drama can wear a bit thin at times. But ultimately this film depicts a fair, realistic, and sympathetic view of what happens when you give 3 teens (one very emotionally damaged) unknown supernatural powers, and when it sticks to its strengths it’s enjoyable and interesting.

One of the primary things you may ask yourself looking into this film is "Mr. Scottastic...what's the excuse this movie gives for a person having a camera on recording these events the whole time?" Well…the answer to that starts with "Mr. wha?!?…that's Sir Scottastic to you! The heck is the m”…but I digress. Taking into consideration the content of this movie, compared to similar films where it's "found" footage, the answer to the question ties intelligently into the plot. The movie starts with our main character (Andrew Detmer) having locked himself in his room with his alcoholic and abusive father trying to break in. Andrew warns him that he’s filming this and will be filming everything from now on. His dad backs off and Andrew finds this as an effective tactic against some of his father’s actions. He ultimately forms a bond with the camera as a sort of emotional “safe zone,” giving him his excuse to carry the camera everywhere. Shortly into the film, however, you find that the movie will give you the perspective of any camera (hand held, phone, security, etc.) if the narrative deems it necessary to show the action. This technique isn’t used to a nauseating degree and works for the most part, but there are definitely scenes where it’s ridiculous that there’s a camera rolling, though I felt that happened rare enough as to not overly disrupt the integrity of the movie.

Sounds pretty compelling in my opinion and, at its high points, it definitely is. The major strengths of this movie lie in the riveting, though upsetting, drama caused by the abusive father to the main character and how he chooses to cope with the emotional trauma of his living situation (also including a very ill mother), the development of the super powers and the ways the characters choose to use them, and the style in which it’s filmed. Combining the powers and the amateur camera work really made this movie stand out to me as unique and was what grabbed my interest in the first place. This affords the movie the ability to show these powers manifest in a way that makes it appear as if what you are watching is almost tangible. The destructive climactic action sequence at the end of the movie is somewhat terrifying as a result (being even more effective for myself given that it takes place in Seattle, which is relatively close to where I live) and, really, it's pretty damn cool. Simply put: the development and use of the superpowers is very interesting and effective.

So in those areas this film succeeds, it’s in the dialog and the over emotional/unnecessary teen drama where the movie falters. Some of the relationships developed over the film feel completely needless. Take for example the relationship between one of the main characters and a girl he likes: the banter back and forth is uninteresting, boring, and ultimately goes no where. Then there are also the moments where the characters are conversing about their emotions and it comes off as feeling forced, they’re acting over dramatic, the dialog just isn’t very good, and/or it’s just not compelling. Some of these scenes try to give emotional depth to the characters but fail delivering the aimed impact due to bad or awkward dialog. Unfortunately these issues comprise about 40-50% of the movie, so it affected my overall enjoyment. That being said, as I’d mentioned previously, I feel that the teen demographic might enjoy this movie more given that they can relate better with the characters (which are well acted for the most part) and that connection would probably allow them to be more forgiving of some of my grievances. But, given these issues, I don’t feel the movie is well rounded.

If the film stuck more with the development/use of the powers, delved more into the origin of the apparatus that gave the characters their powers, gave more time to the main character’s issues, and had some further work done to the script, I’d be comfortable saying this was an all around entertaining movie. Though, as is, I'd still say it deserves a rent if you're interested.

On a side note: the ending does leave it open for a possible sequel, so perhaps they’ll be able to iron out the wrinkles next time around.

Score: 6/10


  1. I found this review interesting and intelligent. My teenage daughter saw it and said it was "Epic" qualifying your opinion that teens may empathize.

  2. We saw this movie and walked out. We are in the 50 something age and thought this was a bad movie all the way around. I like your insight but I would still walk out at my age.