Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Chronicle and Superheroes

What would happen if some ordinary people suddenly received super powers? Superman and the Fantastic Four are the best case examples - they decide to devote their lives to helping people. Everything about Superman revolves around his mission. Even his secret identity was chosen to give him quicker access to emergency reports. The Fantastic Four didn't even keep secret identities.

Spider-Man is a second-best case - after encountering personal tragedy while cashing in on his powers, he devoted much of his time to helping people.

The recent movie The Chronicle is a less optimistic view. It follows three normal high school seniors as they acquire telekinetic powers. At first their powers are weak. They can stop a baseball in flight or put Lego blocks together but anything stronger gives them a nosebleed. Their powers increase rapidly, though. Pretty soon they are using them to play pranks. They make a woman's shopping cart roll away and scare a child by animating a bear. They even confuse a woman by moving her car to a different parking space.

So, where do you go from there? Do you put on the ultimate magic show? Take revenge on some bullies? Give your girlfriend a little extra excitement? Fly to school instead of hitching a ride? What do you do if your drunken father attack you?

The movie covers all of these possibilities and more.

The movie is shown in a hyper-realistic manner. The title refers to this - it is a chronicle of the three boys. One of them, Andrew, had started filming his life shortly before they got their powers. At first he tapes everything but later he concentrates on their increasing abilities. This become easier after he is able to move the camera telekinetically. At times the other two take over the camera. There is also Casey, another student who also tapes her life. Other sources including security footage are used. The result is that the entire movie could have been assembled from footage

The three telekinetics are Andrew, Matt, Andrew's cerebral cousin, and Steve, the popular black guy. Of the three, Steve is the best-adjusted and least affected. Matt actually becomes better-adjusted after becoming telekinetic.

Andrew is a bad choice to suddenly become powerful. His mother is dying. His father is drunken, abusive, and suspicious. He is shy and targeted by bullies. Matt studies philosophers and quotes Jung. Early on he starts making rules for how they use their powers. Steve is more empathetic and just naturally does the right thing. When a car runs off the road into a river, Steve jumps in to save the driver. Matt follows while Andrew watches.

Of course things finally come to a head.

A lot of the plot is predictable but the framing device of the found footage and the naturalistic acting still makes the movie feel fresh. I was a little surprised as its rating on Rotten Tomatoes. It is one of the best-rated movies playing which is very rate for this subject matter. Unfortunately, it is also a grim view of what life would be like if people with super powers really did exist. These kids are a long way from being Superman.

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