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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Musing Pictures: Chronicle

It's a shocking revelation when someone tells a tired story in an entirely new way. Josh Trank and Max Landis came up with a revelatory twist on the superhero origin story in "Chronicle". Before I was struck by that (the twist on the origin story doesn't make itself apparent until fairly late in the film), I was struck by their frank and straightforward approach towards telling a story about telekinesis. I happen to love the idea of telekinesis -- I think it's a fantastic visual tool, a perfect element for a magical medium like cinema, and I've been struggling for years to come up with a story to tell that could rely on telekinesis as a central device. I applaud Trank and Landis, not just for coming up with the story, but for executing it so well, and for finding ways to avoid the tired cliches without forgetting to pay them homage as well.

The aspect of the film that I most admire contains spoilers, so please see the movie first before reading further!

"Chronicle" begins with a trio of characters, three superheroes who help each other learn to refine and control their newly acquired power. They stick together, and even seem to share a psychic bond of sorts. For the first half of the film, it seems like it's an origin story for a superhero team. But the narrative shifts in subtle and startling ways, as one of the characters, the one whose perspective controls our own, the character whose camera provides us with the footage that we see, begins to spiral out of control. He grows drunk on his own power, casts aside his friends, and becomes not the superhero we expected him to become, but the supervillain! The character who seems most likely to become the sidekick dies, and the character who's most likely to become the "brains" of the operation becomes the last remaining hero. The story is structurally sound, and its reversals are shocking. I'm glad that Mr. Trink and Mr. Landis are as young as they are -- with luck, they'll have many more stories to tell us.

-AzS

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