|Written by Ivan Radford|
|Wednesday, 01 February 2012 18:17|
Director: Josh Trank
If you've seen the trailer for Chronicle, you've either groaned at the thought of yet another found-footage movie or been bored by the idea of yet another superhero with a gritty, modern origins story. But Josh Trank's sci-fi takes that tired genre and the tried-and-tested format and comes up with a brilliant play on both.
Did Spider-Man spend his formative months pranking people at the supermarket? Did ickle Magneto shuffle around parked cars for a laugh? Andrew (DeHaan) does. He also gets beaten up by his alcoholic father (Kelly) on a nightly basis. And carries a video camera around with him all day.
If you can accept these two premises - each only briefly explained - Andrew's transformation from outsider high-school geek to telekinetic superhuman is both affecting and surprising. Encountering an underground glowy thing (that's a technical term) with his older cousin Matt (Russell) and popular classmate Steve Johnson (Jordan), Andrew embraces his new powers as a chance to become noticed. The others are more responsible. While Matt wants to set ground rules about using their abilities, Andrew pulls spiders apart in his room. You can soon see where things are headed.
And that's what Trank does so well. He establishes classic comic book dynamics between his characters, but does so in a way that feels unfamiliar. Each boundary the trio cross genuinely shocks, while the handheld presentation (and superb deployment of CGI) keeps it all grounded in reality. Including the scenes where they fly up into the clouds - carrying the camera with them, of course.
As their powers grow, Trank finds increasingly ambitious ways to overcome the limitations of a first-person narration. In one inspired gesture, Andrew makes the camera float around him (effectively positioning us, the audience, WITH HIS MIND), allowing for the third-person perspective that the set pieces require. Later, this segues into the more traditional use of CCTV cameras - and a female video blogger - to take us away from Andrew's perspective. It's carefully thought out and brilliantly edited, even if, like Andrew himself, it can't quite handle what happens when his powers reach a destructive scale. Eager to capture his emotion in one scene, our hero wildly sweeps his hand, causing a ton of iPads to crash out of a window and hover in mid-air. It almost works.
Chronicle is certainly the most interesting and original take on superheroes since Unbreakable or The Incredibles. It's perhaps appropriate that the film's greatest strength is also its only weakness. Either way, that doesn't make it any less super.
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