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promotional still from the film Chronicle

The good:

  • Teenagers suddenly acquiring superpowers — even good kids — wouldn’t immediately (or maybe ever) jump to the conclusion that it was their duty to fight crime. They would fuck around at the mall. Chronicle convinces completely in this regard. These scenes are the best in the movie.
  • It lacked a lot of the bad things that the worst of these movies tend to have in abundance, like overt, pandering sexism and incomprehensible CGI fight scenes. The sexism was implicit and background-noisy, just like real life, and the CGI fight scenes were, for the most part, easy to follow. So that’s good, right?
  • The special effects were up to par.
  • Um. Yeah. That’s it.

The bad:

  • To call these characters one dimensional is an insult to the first dimension. Some of them — the dad, the mom — are nothing more than plot devices. You kind of expect that, I guess. Even the three main characters, though, walk through the preordained stations of their preordained crosses, without any of them doing anything surprising to themselves or to us at any point. Marvel movies and CW “supernatural romance” series sport more convincing character arcs than these.
  • The conceit that everything we see has been filmed by one of the characters (or by surveillance video, etc.) sounds like it would be easy to pull off, in the age of the smartphone and the vlog, but early on our suspension of disbelief gets kind of unsuspended when we learn that two separate characters, who don’t know each other at first, and who are nothing alike, happen to be obsessed with filming everything that happens to them, all the time, no matter what, using cameras that would break the bank for the typical teenager. Even that could have been workable if it had been remarked upon and maybe had become a plot point — “hey look, how coincidental that these characters are both doing that, they should meet and be friends or be rivals or something.” You can imagine a quirky indie film about that very subject. Two kids drawn together (or into bitter conflict) by their mutual love of filming everything. But no. Even that doesn’t happen. Those two characters remain on their own parts of the chess boards, their filming habits nothing more than a narrative convenience, hardly noticing one another. A third character picks up the habit toward the end — not because it makes sense from a character perspective, mind you, but because if he didn’t, we wouldn’t have any access to those moments as an audience, since somebody in-story has to film them for us to see them, and the other two characters are, for different reasons, unavailable for those final scenes.

I’d recommend waiting for this one to hit Netflix. Sorry, filmmakers. I really enjoyed your viral video. I’m betting you will make movies that I will like someday.

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