Saturday, June 30, 2012

LIE #21: The High School As Will and Idea—a review of “Chronicle” (2012)

Chronicle (2012; Josh Trank) is a bittersweet and thoughtful B-movie antidote to the superhero craze: the film states that even with god-like powers, if you have emotional problems, you’ll still be a mess. Maybe even worse. 

Expertly told via the “found footage” method, Chronicle follows three high-school boys (Andrew, Matt and Steve) that have been given incredible telepathic/psionic powers by a mysterious, unexplained glowing rock/thing they find in an underground cave. 
The powers manifest themselves slowly—the boys float Pringles out of the can into their mouths, make a teddy bear come to life in a department store, and other pranks—but soon the kids are flying and are able to manipulate larger, heavier items.

But unlike the blockbuster adolescent power fantasies swarming the multiplexes this summer, it isn’t a “cool-in-spandex/uncool-in-civilian-clothes” situation:
Main character Andrew is picked on and bullied, especially by his awful alcoholic father. As a viewer, I was sympathetic, but only up to a point: he’s hopelessly spineless—one of those uber-losers that even the Star Trek nerds pick on—and not that bright. (If the “power” hadn’t entered his life, he would have grown up into one of those miserable “poor me” martyr types that work in the mail room or in IT.)
Even before the sci-fi elements show up, because he’s such a “pussy,” I knew that Andrew would become the worst of the “supermen,” a horrible and cruel fascist.

Heroism comes from the inside: Matt, Andrew’s cousin, is an autodidact, and teaching himself philosophy, reading Schopenhauer and Jung—and unlike Andrew, who uses the camera as a barrier, when Matt “gets behind” the camera, it actually opens him up more: he meets a nice girl who’s a filmmaker/blogger, and the two connect. 
Actually I was disappointed we didn’t see more of Matt’s home life; I was hoping his background was similar (drunk parents, poverty), so the contrast would be more apparent: that he has managed to overcome his bad situation but his cousin hasn’t, making Andrew’s tragedy greater.

[possible spoilers ahead]
But upsetting expectations is part of Chronicle’s power: The film is better for not killing Andrew’s drunk dad—the kid couldn’t stand up to him before the “power” arrived, why should be able to after?
Andrew wants to hide, run away. His spirit was killed a long time ago. Which is why he never kills his father, or simply flies away. He’s got infinite powers, but can’t even rob a gas station properly. Meanwhile, he hurts those who truly love him.

Written by Max Landis, director John’s son, the film is thankfully not another piece of navel-gazing wankery by a child of privilege (Jason Reitman, I’m looking at you!), and by being a B-movie “genre” product actually deals with teenage emotions and confusions much better than more “straightforward” H’wood teen flicks.

And this is the conclusion of LERNER INTERNATIONAL’s Sci-Fi June. Sorry I couldn’t post every day….

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