“I’ve been doing a lot of reading, you know? Like, online about, like, just evolution and natural selection and how like there’s this thing, right? It’s called the apex predator…”
Everything is comic book hero themed these days. Films, games, TV, magazine covers – even comic books occasionally. Yet no medium has embraced the spandex craze more than cinema has. With rubber clad sex symbols and screens full of exploding CGI the modern blockbuster seems to have found its perfect bedfellow, but to many of us this marriage of convenience is becoming just a little bit stifling. As the summer and winter blockbuster seasons become ever more dominated by Marvel and DC the traditional variety of event films is becoming narrower by the year.
Unfortunately for the rest of us the typical comic book fan is a chronic consumer, happily willing to hand over their pennies for anything relating to their beloved hero’s. They are a fan base easily milked like the cash cow they are. And while the fanboys cough up their pocket money without question or complaint, the wider audience of mindless punters will happily scoff down their popcorn regardless as long as they are given the explosions and a-list sex objects they pay their money to see. It can only be a sad reflection of the times when a film maker’s idea of trying to shake things up is with yet another comic book action film.
And this is Chronicle: a superhero origin story following three teenagers as they randomly acquire powers and struggle to learn how to use them.
Initially this simple set up promises to be quite interesting, setting out to shed the traditional cartoon aspects of the genre and explore how three real world teenagers would behave. The prospect of hormone riddled teenagers using their powers immaturely to satisfy their base needs has potential to be exciting; the film is certainly at its most entertaining when the characters are smashing cars around, carrying out pranks, and trying to upstage each other. Unfortunately all this potential is quickly squandered as the writers shy away from exploring anything too adult or controversial. Instead they would have us believe that the worst thoughts the darkest corners of a teenagers imagination can conjure up is to lift up a passing girls skirt. As the early promise fades we quickly find ourselves revisiting the same well trodden path which the Spiderman series and many others did, only here with a lot more brooding and whining.
And there is a hell of lot of brooding and whining.
The teenage characters are a weakly drawn cast of the usual college/high school stereotypes, each bringing with them some Dawson’s Creek style emotional baggage which litters the script with reluctant confessionals and heart to heart moments. When the guys aren’t causing each other to blub whilst strangely filming each other, then they are laughing and whooping a lot, saying ‘bro’ far too many times, and generally coming across as irritating prats.
To be fair the cinematography is very decent and does well to convey the gloom of the brooding and whining tone. But nothing irks more than the unrelenting devotion to the hand held cam perspective and the ‘found footage’ style; something which was once interesting and new but is now merely a good indicator of a naive director mistakenly convinced of their artistic and cutting edge credentials. South Park and every other satirical show has mocked the style into the ground to the point where you cant imagine anyone seriously considering it without good reason. Chronicle it seems does not have such a director, who is happy to push the technique to nonsensical absurdity. Footage leaps seamlessly between mobile phones, security cameras, news footage and any other device which happen to be lying around. Perhaps the subtext is highlighting the all pervasive presence of the digital eye in the modern world, but if it is then this point is well and truly lost. After a while the amount of time being devoted to keeping this idea running becomes immensely distracting. The fact that the director clearly believes the audience will be impressed by it is just irritating. Of course, in a film with a budget less than $200 million it does help to make limited special effects look a lot more convincing but there is no reason to keep drawing attention to it other than to show off.
There really are few positives to grasp hold of here. Chronicle is a light weight enough diversion should there be nothing better to do. There is enough action to keep things pumping and a few vaguely interesting moments which are easily forgotten, but as with the more mainstream comic book brands we have seen this all a thousand times before.