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Chronicle - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
Directing: B+
Acting: B+
Writing: B
Cinematography: A-
Editing: B+
Special Effects: B+

"Found footage" movies are a dime a dozen these days, but it's a pleasant surprise when it's done as well as Chronicle does it. Whether it's really necessary or particularly relevant to the story at hand is debatable, but at least it makes for different points of view and for some really quite nifty cinematography.

And then there are the special effects, which, while good, are just slightly overrated. That scene with flying kids playing football in the clouds? Pretty standard green screen stuff. In fact, some of the cloud scenes are a little jerky if you look closely enough. This seems to have greatly impressed many a critic. I wasn't wowed until the showdown that takes place at and near the Space Needle, and much of that had more to do with editing and camera work than special effects.

Okay, seeing the panicked crowd's mobile devices all get sucked outside through the windows at the top the Space Needle, complete with a perfectly recognizable iPad, was pretty damn cool. Indeed, a huge amount of the visuals in Chronicle are pretty damn cool. As a Seattleite myself, it was doubly thrilling to watch. It's like Cloverfield for the Pacific Northwest! One wonders if the effect is different for people outside of Seattle (although one has to admit that the Space Needle, which features prominently, is eminently cinematic; it's almost a wonder it hasn't been featured in movies like this more often). For that matter, why did director Josh Trank and writer Max Landis, both of whom are from L.A., even choose Seattle as the setting? Apparently none of the shooting was actually done on location: the Seattle scenes were apparently all shot in a green screen studio in Cape Town.

This would explain the scenes with heavy rain, something that's a pet peeve of mine: it almost never rains like that in Seattle. Hollywood seems to think that's all it does here. At least there are several scenes in this movie where the sun is actually shining. In those scenes, they get it right: it's usually between partly and mostly cloudy. But the downpour? In reality, that happens in Seattle every once in a great while. In movies and TV, that happens every time in rains in Seattle.

That said, the thing Chronicle has over Cloverfield is the characters. Of course, the star of Cloverfield is the monster, so it can afford to make all of its characters completely vapid. The three main characters in Chronicle, while still angst-riddled high school kids, actually have depth. It's the basis of the plot: they find a bizarre, crystal-like structure down a deep hole in the ground, and it somehow gives them telekinetic powers. They must learn to come to grips with their newfound abilities, and one of them kind of, well, doesn't.

Dane DeHaan, looking like a young Leonardo DiCaprio, plays Andrew, the central character -- a loner whose only friend is his cousin Matt (Alex Russell). The third guy, Steve (Michael B. Jordan), becomes part of the group almost as a fluke: he happens to have been with Matt at a party when they discover the hole in the ground nearby.

Andrew has an excessive interest in making home movies. This is where most of the found footage comes from, although later in the film we see shots from widely varying sources: security cameras; hospital surveillance; helicopter news cameras; police squad car cameras (one of which provides an awesome point of view shot as the car gets flipped over the kids struggling in the street). But for the most part it's Andrew's camera. Andrew spends much more time in front of the camera than the cameraman in most of these types of movies, both because it gets passed around among his friends, and also (a clever technique) because he simply keeps the camera hovering in the air with his telekinetic power, pointed at himself.

Andrew gets bullied a lot. It happens at school and at home, from his hard-drinking father -- the one character with only one dimension. His purpose is to be an oppressor to Andrew, someone to push him deeper into his dark side.

The kids are blithe and careless with their abilities, which lends Chronicle an easy believability. You can see most kids their age behaving this way. But Matt in particular is worried and cautious about it, understanding the potential dangers, as they practice and find their powers gaining strength. Andrew uses it to stoke his bitterness. Steve is kind of caught in the middle. Let's just say it doesn't end well.

But it ends thrillingly, in that showdown at the Space Needle. Everything builds up to that extended sequence, which is a lot like the climactic battle in Superman II, but with updated special effects: a good guy and a bad guy, each with equal (or nearly equal) ability, battling with superhuman powers. Buildings all around them are collateral damage. Even as seen through supposed camera footage, it's a hell of a lot of fun.

Michael B. Jordan and Dane DeHaan bring telekinesis to the Pacific Northwest in CHRONICLE.

Overall: B+
1 comment or Leave a comment
tommy50702 From: tommy50702 Date: February 20th, 2015 05:20 am (UTC) (Link)
Project Alronicle. Time travel and Telekinesis. How awesome is that?
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