They will later fight on the Space Needle.
"It's all fun and games until everybody gets hurt."

Hey all, it's time for more movies at The Tagline. Today I'll be reviewing a movie that falls under my list of "movies I swear I reviewed already but apparently I didn't because they are not in my archives." This is a phenomena that has led observers to believe there is a near parallel universe, where everything is the same except I reviewed some different movies. At any rate, when it was released in February of 2012, I went to go see Chronicle, a found footage style film that sucked way way less than Cloverfield (and not only because it was devoid of the legendary douchebag Hud). Starring Dane Dehaan as Andrew Witmer (who throws up on his long-time girlfriend and now wife Anna Wood during the film) Chronicle follows three high school dudes(Andrew, his cousin Matt, and Matt's friend Steve) who discover a mysterious hole in the ground, in the woods near a rave... in a barn or something. Descending into the hole, they find a mysterious pulsing blue stone, that turns red, causing them to drop in pain and get nosebleeds. Later they discover that they have gained telekinetic abilities from the rock, and things sort of grow from there. Steve is a very driven and popular student, and Matt is a pseudo-intellectual high school douche. Andrew in comparison is a maladjusted loner, with a mother dying from cancer and an alcoholic father, who has a fascination with power and predatory behavior. So you know, basically exactly the sort of person you'd NOT want to have telekinetic abilities, or any kind of super powers, or even a motorcycle permit. maybe this movie is different though, and he won't abuse his abilities?

I wish I could crush cars with my mind.
Yeah well no not exactly, that isn't really how things work out. As a matter of fact, the guys basically start off abusing their powers in exactly the way you'd expect. First they start by pegging each other with baseballs. Then they start pulling pranks on people in public. That get's to be pretty funny, and then Andrew throws a guy's car off of a road in the rain and into a flooded lake. Oops, not as funny anymore! It's an honest mistake anyone can make though, you honk a horn at a telekinetic teen who's kind of unhinged, you can expect to take an unexpected dip. After this incident the guys decide that they need rules about their powers, like not throwing people off of ledges. Andrew unfortunately seems to have the quickest growth in his abilities, and after an encounter at a party goes south, Andrew starts to go off the deep end. Things go real bad real fast, and people start dying. These include Steve, and eventually it seems clear that a showdown between Matt and Andrew is inevitable.

It's cute that the cops think they can stop anything.
Normally (as I think I've mentioned) I'm not super hot on the whole found footage thing, and when Chronicle came out they were in plentiful supply. You see while not everyone has the tools to make a big budget action movie, every asshole lining up and down the block has the tools to make a horrendous Blair Witch ripoff. One of the major problems with the found footage movie (and I've said this before too) is that if the movie isn't careful, the idea of someone holding a camera can quickly become a contrivance. For instance why would Hud be holding a camera in Cloverfield while he was scaling the side of a ruined building? The answer is he wouldn't because that's impossibly stupid, even for him. In the case of Chronicle, at first the camera is the obsessive filter for a creep who can't cope with human interaction. Then it serves as still that, but also a means of the guys recording their telekinetic development, which is pretty reasonable. The camera we see through isn't always the SAME either (for instance during the climactic fight between Andrew and Matt at the end, we see things through the cameras of bystanders, news crews and security footage.

I would not climb into a rumbling sinkhole.
So the framing device works in this instance, meaning the movie doesn't get an instant fail. What about the actual content of the film? I've read a few reviews that say the movie is a tired, moralizing piece about the dangers of power and the narcissism of the modern age and the urge to self film. I didn't really get that impression from this movie, and I feel like those reviewers maybe went into the theater expecting to see those things, and found nothing compelling enough to dissuade them. What I took away from the plot was very different. I took the whole movie to be a really interesting take on a superhero origin story. Three guys get the same super powers. One loses control and kills one of the others, and then spirals totally out of control. It's up to the last one (Matt) to stop the other, who has become a villain. In doing so, Matt is forced to accept terrible loss, and the responsibilities that have come with his powers. He has to leave behind his life as he knew it, and the ambitions he previously had, in order to pursue an answer to the question that all three had wondered, and that now was essential to him making meaning out of all the tragedy that had befallen him. What was the stone, where did it come from, and why did they gain the powers they did?

Even forgetting any larger implications about the movie, it is still an enjoyable, well written, and satisfyingly paced film, about some relatively typical teenage guys who are suddenly given an extraordinary ability. There are neat effects, amusing things happen, and you really get to know the characters, and sympathize with them. I felt increasing dread as I became certain that disaster was in the offing, and I was certainly not disappointed in that regard. If you didn't catch Chronicle (as I suspect many didn't) I recommend you check it out. It was a very satisfying film, that rose above what I'd consider to be the restrictions of its form.

That's it for today, join me again on Thursday when I talk about Ender's Game, which I caught on Sunday.

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