I know it’s been awhile since I’ve posted, I apologize to everyone reading! Eventually I want to start posting on a regular schedule, but this year that just won’t be possible (getting my M.A. and all… it’s a little busy!). Anyway, let’s get to the matter at hand…
I went to see the movie Chronicle tonight. It was awesome.
So for those of you who don’t know, it’s a movie about teenagers who develop telekinesis (aka superpowers). Sounds familiar, right? Three boys in high school discover that they can do things with their minds, and it’s silly pranks and tomfoolery (okay, maybe I just wanted to get the word “tomfoolery” into a post) until… well, until it’s not. While it is essentially a superhero-type story without any major surprises, I think it is an excellent new take on an old narrative. And it was dark, which I tend to like.
I’ll try not to be TOO spoiler-ee, but I can’t promise anything.
The film felt very realistic. Usually superheroes get their powers and immediately feel a sense of obligation to the greater good. In Chronicle, they just fooled around for awhile until things started to go awry (more on that later). Although, I did think that for teenage boys they were a little too restrained with their new powers – they would definitely use them to get money and women, let’s be serious. Or at least peek into the girls’ locker room.
Also, when shit did start to get real, the civilians weren’t like “Oh, cool, there are people with superpowers. Now *insert random superhero* will save the day all the time but remain mysteriously anonymous. Alrighty. Whatevs.”. It was more “HOLY FUCK, WHAT IS GOING ON?”
Normally, I would say that the found-footage/homemade video thing is cliché and has outlived its usefulness, but Chronicle does a good job with this particular film device. The camera is used by Andrew, who is bullied and a bit of a loner, as a barrier between him and the world (as the film points out rather unsubtly through dialogue). I think it began as a barrier for him, then slowly morphed into an expression of his increasingly narcissistic and self-centered world view. The camera stops pointing out at the world as a mediation between it and Andrew, and begins to be used to record Andrew’s thoughts, actions, and abilities. Instead of wanting to fade away like he did at the beginning of the movie, he comes to think that he is the only worthy subject for the camera. This marks a shift in his perspective, which we can see in the ways that he uses the camera. The found-footage aspect of the film makes the camera apparent as an important filmic device when the director wants us to notice it, and allows it to fade into the background when he wants us to forget about it.
Chronicle deals with some philosophical concepts of power and knowledge. It complicates the idea that good and evil are black and white, and makes you think about the effects of power. It is not simply that “absolute power corrupts absolutely”, but that power affects different personalities in different ways. Of course teens are going to be irresponsible with their powers. And realistically, the kid who is bullied and abused is not going to be magically “fixed” with some superpowers. I thought Andrew was a sympathetic antihero, as I cringed and watched his descent into power. We get to see how he rationalizes his actions through evolution and the idea that he is the “apex predator”. We understand why he does the things he does, and that makes it even more scary. The most disturbing villain (a term used very loosely in relation to this film) is not the unfathomable super-human monster, but rather someone that we find ourselves sympathizing with and relating to. Because, of course, that means that there is potential for evil (again, used loosely) in each of us. I wish they had delved into this stuff just a little bit more, though.
One issue I have is when Andrew reached the height of his wrong-doing (trying not to give too many spoilers here, sorry!), that also happened to be the time after he was just disfigured from a fire. I think this raises the issue that deformed, disabled, disfigured, and “ugly” people in films and television tend to be portrayed as the villains (again – loosely). I found myself thinking, without THINKING, that Andrew looked more evil with his form disfigured the way that it was. Catching myself in this thought, I was disturbed. This film still reinscribes the classic idea that unattractive or deformed people are wicked, and that their true nature is written upon their physical form. I shouldn’t be thinking that he looks more evil when he has just undergone heavy burns. That is a horrible narrative archetype, and I am not happy to say that it was reproduced in this film, but it was.
Overall, I thought the acting was top-notch, the story was very engaging, and I loved the fresh take on the superhero plot. There were some very visceral moments in the movie when I was completely enraptured with what was going on. I found the characters (mostly) believable and likeable. The story and the tension build to a remarkable finish, and I was with it every step of the way.
And you know what? I’d totally go see a sequel.