Entertaining Platt: Chronicle

February 4, 2012 § Leave a comment

What's Eating Eric Lensherr?

Be warned: This is NOT a happy-go-lucky superhero movie in the tradition of Spider-Man.

Instead, Josh Trank’s Chronicle is dark, brooding, and uncompromising in the twists and turns that it takes. In moments that another movie might give us a chance of redemption, Chronicle just throws in another instance in which that opportunity is wrecked or rebuffed.

Although the found-footage routine is getting to be old hat, it works for this movie, especially during the third act when the sources become more varied than just the floating camera of our central character, Andrew Detmer (Dane Dahaan, channeling Leonardo DiCaprio from the Gilbert Grape era).

Beware of spoilers beyond the jump…

It’s the story of three high school pals – Andrew, his cousin Matt, and their charismatic pal Steve – who leave a Footloose-meets-rave barn party and stumble on a hole full of McGuffinite that turns them into telekinetic superdudes. At first, it seems like it’ll be a coming-of-age piece with superhero elements that we might want to call X-Men: The Last Stand by Me.

During the movie’s fun-filled first act, the superfriends get the giggles experimenting with their newfound powers and come to grips with just how much they can accomplish. But they’re kids, so they’re also pranking – blowing up a girl’s skirt or moving someone’s car in a shopping center parking lot. There’s darkness here too, though: Andrew’s home life is a nightmare. His mom’s dying and his father’s a violent drunk who abuses his son. He’s a geeky outcast at school.

But then comes the first moment in the movie where you think everything might work out just fine, as Steve encourages Andrew to join him onstage for the school talent show and he scores hugely with his telekinetic antics. Sort of like when Carrie gets invited to the prom, but without the pig blood.

Things don’t get better, though. Rejected by a girl at a party, faced with his father’s angry outbursts and his mother’s perpetual decline, Andrew goes moping in the middle of a thunderstorm that gets one of his friends killed when they try talking to him.

And the movie’s tone just keeps getting darker from there as the two surviving friends find themselves pitted against each other a la Professor X and Magneto.

That unrelenting cloud makes Chronicle stand out from many other superpower flicks. It shows us key moments where a different choice might lead to a happier ending, and all we can do is watch helplessly as the choices made take everyone down a spiral of destruction that begins on a very personal level but soon explodes across the expanse of Seattle’s skyline.

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