Monday, May 28, 2012
There is too much focus on the emotional disconnectivity of Andrew (Dane DeHaan). Rather than let a few stark examples stand as the emblems of his unhappy existence, writer Max Landis (famous for having a famous father and getting other famous people to appear in his video deconstruction of "The Death of Superman") and director Josh Trank hammer the point home again and again. Essentially, they are trying to make the would-be school shooter a sympathetic character. That is probably not a good route to go, and it doesn't help the story here.
The other glaring problem, imposed by the found footage approach, is that the other characters who appear on screen do not much development. Trank is forced to resort to cheats – cameras of all sorts are rolling everywhere, sometimes without sound – to keep the story going in a coherent manner. Sometimes this is done in a mildly clever fashion, such as having Casey (Ashley Hinshaw) wandering about with a camera of her own. Too often, however, it feels like more of a distraction than a means to become immersed in the story. Casey is allowed to have some personality because she has a camera, and therefore a point of view. Matt (Alex Russell) and Steve (Michael B. Jordan) are just somewhat mouthy guys playing at being somebody's (Landis) idea of teenagers, but only as they are seen by others.
Now, I did actually enjoy Chronicle. I think it has the best superhero fight ever put on film (and Landis has established his credentials with his comic book geekdom well before this), feeling all the more real because the characters seem to finally be having reasonable emotional reactions (for being teenagers) to what is going on. I just think that it tries to make the kid who is going to kill everyone because he was bullied/beaten/ostracized the hero – or at the very least the emotional center of the film – before waving a hand and declaring that uncontrollable emotion is bad. I think this would have been much stronger with a more traditional approach that had a few cut-ins from Andrew's and Casey's cameras rather than pretending that this wasn't an arduously plotted and shot production.