1/2 (out of 5)
February 3, 2012
Dane DeHaan as ANDREW DETMER
Alex Russell as MATT GARETTY
Michael B. Jordan as STEVE MONTGOMERY
Michael Kelly as RICHARD DETMER
Ashley Hinshaw as CASEY LETTER
Directed by: Josh Trank
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
I am done with found footage movies. I am so done with the genre. Back in 1999 when “The Blair Witch Project” did it, it was a novelty. It was a gimmick. Well, that gimmick is no longer new as we can guarantee at least five to ten of these films getting released over the course of a year now.
Sure, there have been some decent additions to the genre, like the first and third “Paranormal Activity” movies as well as “Cloverfield.” But there’s very little innovation left in the genre. Instead, the warts-included set-up seems to be more of a patch for filmmakers to make mistakes and move the camera around a lot. It’s also a patch to lazily get around bad characterization and inconveniently awful plot points.
In this world where voyeurism reigns supreme, I see the appeal. But like reality television, just shooting a movie on a handheld video camera doesn’t make it any more real. In fact, it’s becoming the biggest cliche in movies today.
“Chronicle” is proof positive that the genre is imploding upon itself. By framing a superhero action movie in the found footage format, the filmmakers think they’ve struck something new. But it’s not new. “Chronicle” is as tired, boring and lazy as most of the other found footage movies out there.
The story follows three teenagers – the jock (Michael B. Jordan as Steve), the somewhat cool good student (Alex Russell as Matt), and the reclusive nerd (Dane DeHaan as Andrew) – who wander off in a drunken stupor at a rave to find a mysterious hole in the ground. Like the idiots that they are, they crawl down the hole to find a giant glowing object. Not smart enough to be worried about something like radiation poisoning, they touch the object, pass out and wake up with new telekinetic abilities.
Over the course of the next few days, the three not-quite-friends develop their powers. Of course, unlike your average teenager who would at least mention that they have superhero powers, this never crosses their minds. Instead, they spend their time lifting girls’ skirts and playing pranks on people at local shopping centers. Eventually things go sour, and we get a taste of what could be a neat origin story for a super villain. However, this is too little too late, leaving the bulk of the movie for these idiot teenagers to just fart around with their powers like a child who just got a new squirt gun.
There is so much wrong with this film that it’s almost impossible to find a starting place. From a technical level, the movie has some of the worst visual effects I’ve seen in a long time. I could literally see wires on the kids when they were flying. There’s such awful green screen work that it makes the rooftop scene in “The Room” appear passable.
Then there’s the acting. There’s a misconception going around that found footage allows the actors to be more natural. However, as we first learned in “The Blair Witch Project,” it only gives them an opportunity to overact even more. In the final climax, Dane DeHaan channels the worst of Hayden Christensen from the “Star Wars” movies. And throughout the film, the characters feel the need to keep justifying why everything’s being filmed. It’s one thing to establish this in the beginning, but to have a character literally say, “We have to document this!” or a cop to say off-camera in a hospital, “We need to keep recording for our investigation.”
Oddly enough with the POV setting of this film, the audience is further removed from the movie. There’s no emotional connection to the teens. Steve is a giant stereotype of a cool jock, and Andrew is the overdone cliche of a paint-by-numbers bullied teen… beat up at school with no one to help, mother sick, father abusive. But these aren’t loveable characters like something out of a John Hughes movie. Instead, they’re boring people. Realistic, maybe, but I don’t go to the movies to see realistic boring people. I want to see people I can get behind.
In addition to the alarmingly bad VFX and the shallow and one-dimensional characters, there are nonsensical additions to the plot that serve only to pad the film out to its sparse 85-minute running time. For example, Matt ends up falling for a girl in town who (surprise, surprise) also videotapes everything in her life. Nothing ever comes of this relationship, making it completely unnecessary to tell a story.
But in the end, my hatred for this movie stems from my hatred for the characters. I suppose the filmmakers were trying to show the narcissistic and self-absorbed nature of teenager, which is true. However, truth in film does not make a good movie. For example, Bella in the “Twilight” movies is a dead-on representation of emotionally brittle, self-indulgent, overly dramatic and angst-ridden teenage girls, but that doesn’t make her a good character at all.
I know the superhero genre is getting a little too much exposure, especially after last summer’s schedule which saw a new superhero movie coming out practically every other week. But I like a little more “hero” in my “superhero” movies. Peter Parker gets bitten by a radioactive spider, and he becomes Spider-Man. These guys get the ability to move things with their minds and fly, and they pull pranks on people in a drug store.
It may be a somewhat realistic portrayal of entitled teenagers, but to me it was a story about three assholes who just become super assholes.