I’ve been hitting up the Redbox machine at work for the last month or so, hoping to find something, anything that might pique my interest or prick my masochistic side. It has been a month or so of failure. There’s been nothing there that I am particularly interested in watching. The latest run’n’gun? The latest vaguely 300’ish movie involving Greek mythology? Nah, fuck that.
Chronicle has had my interesting firmly in its grasp since the first trailer, but since I rarely ever go to theaters, it has had to wait. I wasn’t even aware it was coming out any time soon. Now, several hours after having finished it, I wish I would have waited for it to hit cable.
Once I got through the slow beginning, with its concentration of misery and awkward narration, I started to warm up to the film. Popular Guy Steve showed up out of nowhere, interrupting Shy Guy Andrew’s weeping just long enough to lead him to a cave, where they join up with Wannabe Cool Matt and go exploring (and in Andrew’s case, whining). Eventually they encounter a glowing crystal thing that makes sounds and has wiggling tendrils. Things go wonky, camera goes dead, and another camera takes over sometime later after they pull their asses to safety and discover they have super powers.
This is where things start to take a turn for the enjoyable. Shy Guy Andrew starts coming out of his shell. The guys are playing with their powers and pushing themselves to see what they can and cannot do. Andrew seems to the best of the three, working his powers with a level of finesse that puts the others, especially his cousin, Wannabe Cool Mat, to shame. You can almost see the sign hanging over his head: “Pulling a Vader, Come at Me Cousin!” For now though, everything is fine and the film is fun.
Sort of. Have you ever been around high school kids and younger college kids? These people are, for the most part, fucking annoying. This translates well in Chronicle. Too well.
Then things take a turn. Andrew nearly kills some jackass in a 4x4 that’s riding Matt’s tail on the highway (a fantasy for most of us, probably) and everyone freaks out. “We have to have rules!” Wannabe Cool Matt shouts. “You can’t just make up rules!” replies Andrew. Popular Guy Steve, aspirations of politics grasped tightly in hand, just kind of waffles about. “So gonna fight!” can be seen flashing out the corner of your eye as this goes down.
Everyone makes up. Joy! Andrew becomes slightly popular and fucks that up in the span of a single night. Suddenly! Shy Guy Andrew becomes Whiny Prick Andrew. Popular Guy Steve becomes Smoking Corpse Steve. Wannabe Cool Matt becomes Committed Relationship Matt, which drops the subject on whether he is cool or not. Whiny Prick Andrew becomes Violent Sociopath Andrew.
The movie has entered into a downward spiral that it will not recover from. It was interesting and entertaining, but from here on out it is a vaguely cool looking cliche. The underdog dukes it out against the more powerful foe… a fight telegraphed since the beginning of the film. It reminds me of several films, but the one that comes to mind first and foremost is another movie starring a bunch of “kids” with special powers: The Covenant. That movie was shit. Being reminded of it is not a good thing. (I could mention The Craft, which is a parallel for The Covenant, but fuck that, I like The Craft.)
Chronicle wasn’t necessarily bad. It was annoying and disappointing and too willing to stick with cliches, but it had its moments and was entertaining for a spell. It could have been better, should have been better, and changing one event would have managed it: Deep fry Matt, let Steve live.
Why? Steve, despite having only known Andrew for a little while, actually gives a shit about him. He does everything he can to help Andrew; he encourages him and talks to him and tries to raise his self-esteem. When Andrew is having his tantrum, the same tantrum that gets Steve killed, it is Steve that knows something is wrong and immediately finds Andrew in an attempt to help. Not Matt, Andrew’s cousin, who has known him his whole life and, when the time comes, either doesn’t know that Andrew needs help or ignores it, just like he ignored Steve’s calls before he flew off to his death.
And it is that, the whole deal with Matt being both a part of and apart from the group that takes away any poignancy from the end of the film. Matt has been standoffish towards his cousin throughout the whole film, even admits that before he got powers that he didn’t like him all that much, and now, at the end of the film, I am supposed to believe that he cares so much about cousin that he is willing to let him live, even help him escape, after hurting so many people, including nearly killing Matt’s girlfriend. Granted, there were drunken moments throughout the film where he says how much he is proud of and loves his cousin, but again… drunken. Matt’s killing blow doesn’t come across as being a particularly difficult decision (he’s been threatening it for half the movie) or act, even if meant to be both.
Had Steve been forced to fight Andrew and deal the death blow, there would have been a sense of sadness to it.
Oh well, whatever.