It’s high school night here at the Ballston Regal. Uh oh. That thing, is that an oversized beenie, I’ve never seen a kid outside of a tv show wear something like that. Looks like an idiot. We see the trailer for Project X (coming out this March), in positive tones was described to us as “Superbad on crack” and these kids are psyched–I think we’ve found this audience’s level and it includes going to see 21 Jump Street (also this March–March is for Morons Month, man). Lucky for me and the audience, if I’m feeling patronizing (and when am I not?), Chronicle (2012) is at least two steps over its head. I mean, there’s a shout-out to Schopenhauer, Jung, and Plato in the first ten minutes of the movie. Not really names a high schooler would be that familiar with, but hey, this is the movies.
Andrew Detmer (Dane DeHaan) gets an old camera and starts filming everything. In part, this is to create some kind of protection against his abusive father. I have a saying, you can shame a dog, but you can’t shame a [knave]. Daddy Detmer is of the latter category. I’m working on a less archaic word than knave, but “jerk” just doesn’t quite work. Matt (Alex Russell), the philosopher, is Andrew’s cousin and he worries for the lad. So, he brings Andrew to a party/rave (Jung quote) and suggests (unsuccessfully) that Andrew not film. Well, he does, and it gets him into a spot of bother at the party. Outside, Steve (Michael B. Jordan) meets up with Andrew and persuades him to join Matt and he at this cool hole they found. They go into the hole (Plato reference). They then embark on their journey of discovering their cave-born powers. Andrew makes a couple of mistakes and things start to get out of hand. Then things get out of hand indeed. I guess this movie is about how super powers ought not to go to people with serious psychological problems.
People are calling this a “found footage” movie, but I’m not sure. I’m no expert on the genre considering most of these movies aren’t worth the time. If I wanted to watch some idiot drop a crappy camera and run away from it or things suddenly appear in the corner of shots, I’d come to the conclusion that I too was an idiot. Still, I can’t really see this as found footage since the guys lose the first camera and sometimes the action is inter cut with film from Casey’s (Ashley Hinshaw) camera (which she uses for her blog, loser) as well as CCTV and the like. There’s a really cool effect that happens late in the movie, but I’ll let you enjoy that. Another wonderful aspect of this being found footage-not is that their powers are initially telekinetic and so they can move the camera around for non-POV shots. Cool, huh? I thought so. The next question, then, is “why do the pseudo-found footage thing at all?” I’d say it’s worth while in how it allows a slow exposure to Andrew’s mental deterioration.
Performances. Most of these guys haven’t been in much–Jordan having the most experience. I saw him in The Wire as Wallace. He was even better in this. There’s almost a cheat to play young people because bad performances almost make it more realistic. Well, Jordan doesn’t need that help, but Russell does at times. Ultimately, Russell got the hardest part. How is that? Isn’t the crazy the hardest part? No way. To look dead-eyed into the camera isn’t that difficult to do without looking like a moron. Screaming dialogue at the top of your lungs without looking fake is tough. Russell does this no problem. The weakest scene comes with a pre-climax confrontation and there’s just a little too much repetitive tick happening in rhythm to the dialogue. Hey, it happens, but it shouldn’t. DeHaan plays the whacked out kid quite well, though, no question. He’s 25, so it probably wasn’t that easy to start mumbling incoherently again.
Where does this movie go wrong? The biggest flaw in the movie is its attempted unyielding grip on the found footage motif. Choppy cuts and weird angles only hurt the movie when you’ve already gone so lax. Either (a) we need to be constantly reminded at every turn that someone in the action is holding the camera or (b) we let the audience suspend their disbelief and think that anybody not in frame might be holding the camera, possibly. They try to go both ways and it results in a waste of some time. The movie clocks in at about 84 minutes and yet the progress of the movie is almost slow it’s so well paced.
Still, it’s excellent and well worth the time.