Friday, February 10, 2012

Chronicle impresses

*I try my best to keep any spoilers out, talking in generalities and only really touching on things you would most likely get from the trailer.

I saw this title last week, but it's been sitting with me... and I'm heavily considering going to see it again (not something I do too often in the realm of $12 movie tickets). I actually first heard of it just a week prior to it's debut, as it's trailer was shown before the new Underworld flick (a film which wasn't very good, sadly)  and it instantly caught my attention as a lower budget hero-like movie, something akin to Hancock.

In some ways it was like Hancock... but in my opinion, it surpassed that film with what felt like more down to earth characters, more heart, better writing and interestingly with a tenth of the budget to boot. Costing a mere 15 million to produce (which seems like a small amount in the world of pro-movies of today) the film doesn't really feel as if they were limited by the budget at all.

Like I mentioned, the characters feel very down to earth. They are three, kind of different characters whom are brought together by a find which changes their lives from that point on. Andrew, the main character of the film, is a troubled youth whom lives with a sick mother, an alcoholic father and generally keeps to himself in social situations. Bullied and left on the side lines, he only ever really chooses to hang out with a cousin of his, Matt, whom is more of a middle ground kind of character who much easily blends into social events, but still has his hang ups when trying to figure out who he is. Lastly, Steve, is much more charismatic and outgoing - even runs for class president in their high school.

The movie starts as Andrew gets himself a new video camera which he starts to use as a way to document things in his day to day life. Be it the abusive tendencies of his father, his mundane, but also poor life at school or when he's out with his cousin; Andrew always seems to have the camera on, filming - despite constant questioning and weird looks from others who wonder why exactly he's filming. This whole idea, while an interesting way to introduce us to Andrew and those around him actually gives the film a much more realistic feel in the sense that you're along for the ride... rather than watching a movie. The movie itself cuts back and forth between filmed scenes and those shot with Andrew's camera but... they seem to almost blend together more and more as the film goes on.

While it's not a new tactic to introduce us to characters with a handheld camera gimmick... this one feels a little different. As the story progresses and we get to the core idea of the movie we follow Andrew, Matt and Steve as they find a crater/cave in the woods out behind a party that's being thrown at an abandoned building. The events that unfold leave the three with "powers" or abilities in which they are able to use their minds to accomplish things; stuff like moving objects, levitating and so on. As they develop these powers and experiment more with them, they get better with them. Andrew (snapping back to my bit about the camera) even starts to move his camera around freely with his mind, allowing him to film himself and others in what ever way he wants - the idea is even noted by Steve at one point whom asks how Andrew is able to so finely harness his ability to smoothly control the camera all the while doing other things.

The three of them, of course, have a lot of fun with the new found abilities at the beginning of the movie.. but that would be boring if things just ended on a high note. Soon things start to get a little crazy and each of them starts to amp up what they can do with these abilities, while others in the group worry that there should be rules to protect themselves and others. Before we get too deep into it though, I must say that the pacing they went with, the large amount of time they spent on developing the characters, showing you the different sides of each character, really impressed me. I wasn't expecting that kind of attention to the project; it's not something you get from the trailer or promo material what so ever.

What eventually unfolds is an interesting story of three friends, their differences as people and those in their lives that shape them. The abilities idea works in well as a catalyst for that and it's a lot of fun watching the three experience this new exciting time, knowing that you would probably do the exact same thing. The sense of attachment you have to the characters is strong, at least it was with me. Not so much that I cared deeply for the characters, but more, I felt almost like I was party of that union rather than watching it from the sidelines. Very effective way to get an audience to care more about what happens through out the story. Very kewl.

The action itself is serviceable but is one of the few draw backs of the movie, for me at least. They just don't seem to burst into that level that you want them to. Maybe it's the budget... I'm not sure... but especially towards the end of the movie, I was sitting there wishing they'd bump it just a little further. Who knows... maybe we'll see another chronicle movie where they can put a little more money into those effects? Either way, it doesn't really detract from the story or the rest of the movie too much, I just felt that it could of raised the bar a little higher.

While not quite on the same level, I did notice (even in the trailer I got a feel) shards or slivers of what I got from the 1988 anime film Akira. Much less mind bending than the aforementioned title, but it does have that certain flavor at least, in my opinion of course. I A) Am considering watching it for a second time and B) Can't wait for it to come out on Blu-Ray. Awesome film.