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Chronicle (2012)

March 29, 2012

VERDICT:
7/10 Psycho Kinetics

Good things happen when nerds make movies.

Chronicle is the story of an unpopular teen from a broken home who begins videotaping his daily activities because that’s just what kids do these days, I guess. After he and his cousin befriend the most popular kid in the school, they stumble upon a sinkhole in the woods and start playing Cave Explorer because that’s just what kids to these days, I guess. Once inside, they find an otherworldly mega-crystal that taps into their brains, gives ’em some seriously gnarly nosebleeds, and a whole slew of super powers to boot. As they hone their abilities through the art of Punking, our unpopular teen takes to it like a boss and soon finds himself in neck-deep in The It Crowd. But then things start to go South, he decides to take it out on the world for being dealt such a crap hand, and it’s up to his two best buds to stop him before someone gets a Space Needle up their caboose.

For all intents and purposes, this sucker was tailor made and custom fitted for me to geek right out over. Twenty-something male, constantly fantasizes about the day he discovers his Jedi powers, has seen Akira more times than his wife would ever care to know. I am the target audience and that’s a big reason why I liked it as much as I did. But here’s the thing: five years back, I made a short film with my college roommates called Zeroes. It was about six kids with superpowers who compete to see which of them can go the longest without using their respective abilities. There was a whole lot of swearing, a whole lot of drinking, and a good time was had by all. Four years later, after 50 some-odd rewrites, I finally turned it into a full-length script, and I was stoked.

Then I saw this.

Maybe I’m just bitter that Josh Trank beat me to the punch, but as I watched these superboys win beirut, test their healing factors, and move Pringles with their minds, I nearly flipped-the-eff-out. My first thought: someone owes me a royalty check for Zeroes. My second thought: I ain’t gettin’ that royalty check. My third thought: fuck that noise. My fourth thought: thanks for somehow stealing the best parts of my script, you rat bastards. Looking back, I should have at least yelled out a few F-bombs since I literally had the theater to myself. I mean, how could they do this to me, sending me back to the drawing board after all my hard work? Who does that to another person? Could this be grounds to sue? I should have punched that Lorax poster on the way out. Serenity now…

Look, I’m not trying to play the woe-is-me card, especially since that script mine’s come a long way in light of said developments, but for those 84 minutes, I was a mess. It’s a shame that things played out like that, because it is a good movie and it’s rare that I’m so jaded while trying to keep an open mind. The point is: if Josh Trank hadn’t made this movie, I would have made this movie, and that’s as much as complement to his finished product as it is a great way to jump on to my Shit List (that is if I had a Shit List). But with personal vendettas aside and a couple months to clear my head, it’s still not quite an 8.

The one thing that holds this movie back from achieving a new level of awesomeness is ultimately borrowed it felt. The first two Acts are basically Carrie on steroids, and the last Act is basically Akira without that giant baby. As far as the former is concerned, you’ve got the evil parent who thinks their kid is the devil, the misunderstood teen who uses his brainwaves to bully the bullies, a public shaming in front of the whole school, and the one or two friends who try to talk him off the deep end before things get ugly. As far as the latter is concerned, I was half expecting the characters to forget their names entirely and start yelling KANEDAAA!” and “TETSUOOO! instead.

The upside is that those are by no means the worst movies to be borrowing from, and since it’s only a matter of time before we get a live-action, whitewashed Akira remake that nobody even wants, it’s nice to have this to look back on as an unexpected surprise of sorts. The downside is realizing that the movie you’re watching is an awful lot like movies you’ve already seen, and that’s never any fun. But as far as reference points go, the story’s progression from Carrie to Akira does come off as an incredibly natural fit.

Although the way Chronicle does stand out as something all its own is how these kids react to their newfound powers. Whereas Carrie White and Tetsuo just used ’em to kill folks, these high schoolers do what any of us would do in their shoes: have some fun. Fly to that place across the globe you always wanted to go to, gain a reputation, impress the ladies, defy the laws of physics without lifting a finger, make life easier on yourself. There’s not a person out there who hasn’t daydreamed about the “What if?” of finding out you’re Kryptonian, and I loved the way this movie just nosedives into the endless possibilities. It’s not what we’ve come to expect from superhero movies, and with Marvel running out of franchises to reboot, it’s great to have a different point of view.

The cast of newcomers here is also surprisingly strong, particularly Dane DeHaan as our self-proclaimed “apex predator” of the hour, Andrew. As the kid everyone loves to pick on, not only was he well-cast from a physical standpoint, but he really sells it, too. Very easy to sympathize/empathize with him, and even though you can see where his character arc’s headed from pretty far downfield, you still can’t help but root for him given the circumstances of his shitty life. But aside from DeHaan, the kids here do a really good job of just acting their age and naturally reacting to things as they come.

I don’t know whether to be mad at myself or mad at the movie, but the thing that kills me is that if I’d never come up with Zeroes and hadn’t been so invested in it since, I would have given Chronicle way more love than I have already. For a formula that’s been itching for a good kick in the ass, Chronicle does just that thanks to the healthy dose of realism it brings to the equation. But let’s just state the obvious – isn’t it about time we gave the “found footage” thing a rest? Getting kind of ridiculous up in here.

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14 Comments leave one →
  1. Paragraph Film Reviews permalink
    March 29, 2012 7:42 am

    Good to see you back man!

    Foir clarity, this has nothing to do with Zeroes? Or it’s a manifestation of your script from somewhere? Kinda confused with any (or no) connections???

    I’m in the same boat. Liked it, but didn’t wet my pants like everyone else. It was going well until the mention of an ‘Apex Predator’ for me, then it turned big-blockbuster, stupid and unrealistic (I know… it’s a film a bout superpowers).

    • March 29, 2012 8:08 am

      Thanks, man! Happy to be back.

      Sorry if it that wasn’t clear, added a few extra sentences to hopefully make it crystal. But yeah, it was like someone watched Zeroes, read my script, and then made a movie out of ’em. It was infuriating, but I’m getting over it.

      And I agree, the tone took a serious turn from realistic to Hollywood after that apex predator speech. Could have toned down the angst a smidge.

  2. Mary permalink
    March 29, 2012 5:39 pm

    I really liked this movie when i saw it with my friends but was definitely comparing it to some super cool PC kids doing amazing things with ping pong balls the whole time. In my head, it was all yours

    also, love the comment about your “wife!”

    • March 29, 2012 6:05 pm

      Hahaha. Thank you, Mary. Someone out there understands my pain. Good movie regardless though.

      And yeah, I still don’t think Audrey realizes what a huge nerd she married. I do my best to keep it discreet.

  3. March 29, 2012 11:53 pm

    Oh, I so feel your pain on this one. Don’t you just hate when you’re watching a movie, and you realize it’s using your idea? I’m not a screenwriter, but I am an aspiring novelist, so… It’s happened.

    Most recently was “Terra Nova,” which borrowed a few concepts I had in mind. Fortunately, it didn’t explore them the way I was going to, so I think it’s salvageable.

    • March 30, 2012 9:33 am

      It was painful, man. Glad someone else out there knows the drill.

      And my script was the same way. Not a carbon copy in the least, but enough to make me have to go back and rewrite some scenes and characters. It’s all good, really.

  4. March 30, 2012 1:20 am

    For a movie I thought was some type of Facebook miniseries, I enjoyed it.

  5. The Hot Rod permalink
    March 30, 2012 6:16 am

    Oh man, I so cannot wait to see this! Nice review!!

    • March 30, 2012 9:31 am

      Thanks! Definitely give it a look, pretty cool stuff.

      Also, when did your URL change to exquisiteporn?

  6. May 9, 2012 11:39 am

    The trailer looked a lot more promising than what it actually is. I was actually looking forward to this. Disappointed.

    • May 9, 2012 11:55 am

      Aw, man. Sorry to hear that. What was its downfall?

      • May 9, 2012 9:17 pm

        I just thought it was all over the place, and thought the writing was pretty bad (especially the characterization of the father… very cliche). I think it could have been more, it definitely had potential.

      • May 11, 2012 11:07 am

        Yeah, the dad was very one-dimensional, and it’s very heavily borrowed from Carrie. Definitely though it had its saving graces, but I agree, it could have been more.

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