Movies

Reason Writers at the Movies: Peter Suderman Reviews Chronicle in The Washington Times

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Associate Editor Peter Suderman reviews Chronicle, a viral-video inspired riff on the superhero origin story, in today's Washington Times:

What happens when you give a trio of teen boys superpowers?

Maybe they'll goof off. Or maybe they'll decide to wreck a major city in a fit of adolescent angst.

In "Chronicle," they do both.

A cleverly twisted take on the superhero origin story, "Chronicle" is also a cautionary tale about the dangers of superpowers: There may be a superhero in all of us—but there might also be a supervillain.

Shot in a faux-documentary, found-footage digital video style that at first resembles the fake monster-invasion movie "Cloverfield," "Chronicle" is the story of three teenage boys who gain superpowers, including the mysterious ability to ensure that the camera is always on and pointed in just the right direction whenever something important is happening.

Convenient, right? Well, yes, but unlike "Cloverfield" and other similarlyYouTube-inspired genre riffs, "Chronicle" pulls it off by making the camera an integral part of the story.

Whole thing here

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  1. I can’t understand how anyone could see the trailer for this and not think it would be good.

    I’m surprised it took this long for somebody to pitch “It’s a darker Zapped.”

    I also can’t believe I personally didn’t write this in 1986.

    1. Are you a bi?Do you enjoy this lifestyle?—datebi*cO’m— is a good community you can enjoy your bisexual life.

      1. Zapped! meets Larry Clark’s Kids. I love it. Run with it. You two bang out a script and have it on my desk by Monday.

        1. At least this spammer always uses the same name.

    2. It was the opposite for me. They have been advertising this heavily on the web (every other commercial on Hulu it feels like) and I was thinking it looked terrible. It look like I was wrong. Perhaps this is a cautionary tale for bombardment style advertising.

    3. The trailer really grabbed my attention too. I think that the understated look combined with the mysterious superpower scenario is pretty compelling. It’s been done before, but I am very attracted to fantasic “what if?” stories like this.

  2. BTW, Cloverfield was great.

    Not very high replay value, but a great one-off theatre experience.

    1. JJ Abrams is that you?

    2. Way, way, way too much nausea-inducing shaky-cam.

      And, does that poster win the prize for “Worst Photoshop of a Hollywood Movie Poster Ever”?

      1. Yes, that crap annoys me. Next up–3D shaky cam!

    3. By “great,” you mean rooting for the monster, right?

      1. Well, yes.

        It convinced me that a giant monster was destroying NYC.

        Which is something the Godzilla remake did NOT do.

    4. Rifftrax version was great. I can’t imagine watching that movie without commentary.

    5. I thought Cloverfield was amusing enough, but deeply shallow. Like so much of the J.J. Abrams oeuvre (yes, he was only the producer, but his fingerprints are all over the picture), it’s a high-concept tease that never really pays off. Chronicle isn’t perfect by any means, but it’s ultimately it’s a lot more satisfying, and the sort of thing I’d want to see again.

      1. I thought Cloverfield was amusing enough, but deeply shallow.

        Try deeply unrealistic. No, not the monsters invading Manhattan, that I could get behind. It was the group of teenagers heading straight into the center of the melee so the protagonist could “save” a girl he kind of liked… while his friends followed him… dying along the way.

        Sorry dude, it’s great that you kind of like that girl and all, but I’m not going to videotape your journey into the mouth of madness to support your crush.

  3. Super powered TODDLERS would wreck cities. Teenaged boys want pussy.

    1. Yeah. If I had had super powers in my teens, I would have spent most of my time robbing liquor stores, pharmacies and trying to bag women. Come to think of it, that is what I would do now.

      1. I would skip that stage and go right to “Hey, National Guard! Let’s DO THIS!”

        1. Nah. I would want to remain totally anonymous. Going out in a blaze of glory doesn’t sound like much fun.

    2. This is covered (briefly) in the movie as well.

  4. I want a film where Warty, Epi, and SF all get superpowers. Or WI, Herc, and STEVE SMITH.

    1. White Indian’s super power would be enormous size. He would gambol about New York City King Kong style.

      1. Alright that was pretty good.

        Officer, am I free to gambol about Midtown?

        CARL DENHAM: NO!
        CPT ENGLEHORN: NO!

    2. STEVE SMITH ALREADY HAVE SUPER POWER. ASK WARTY, EPI AND SF WHAT IT IS.

  5. BTW, Cloverfield was great.

    No. It was a fine idea for a movie.

    But then the character whose POV was the audience’s proxy POV was an insufferable whining bitch, and everyone else in it was an asshole who hated him (i.e., us).

    The only sufferable characters were the army dudes and the monster. So they were in it for nine seconds.

    And also! The recorded-over-our-Coney-Island-love-day formal conceit was as cheesy as Mighty Mouse’s shit?and less plausible than the monster.

    Sucked. All the ass. It sucked it.

    (Still better than 95% of movies.)

    1. “the character whose POV was the audience’s proxy POV was an insufferable whining bitch”

      This can be a deathblow to my interest in a film or show. I wanted to like Breaking Bad but could never get past the 2nd episode and all the manufactured anguish over whether the protaganists could kill a man who 1. had tried to kill them and 2. whose presence would mean their life being shattered. Only in the movies do people anguish that much over killing someone who almost killed them.

      1. That is exactly what turned me off about that show too. If you are going to sell out and become some evil meth dealer to take care of your family after you die, what the fuck do you care if you whack some scumbag who tried to kill you?

        If the guy had a lot of moral scruples he wouldn’t have been doing what he was doing in the first place. That is exactly the part that turned me off to the show. It is also bad entertainment. I didn’t turn the show on to have a meditation on the morality of killing someone. I have one of those on my own about four times a day in traffic. I turned it on to see some guy go do something kind of crazy but interesting.

        1. I think the creators are pussies. They are scared that if they show a protoganist just off the guy as any normal person in that situation would that people would scream about it. So they put in the anguish to make it more ok to like the protaganists.

          It’s silly, because people liked shows like Sopranos and Boardwalk Empire without having that false anguish in the characters. We’re grown up to know Tony Soprano is not someone we should emulate.

          1. Oh Lord, if you think the creators of Breaking Bad are pussies then you really have a Superalpha Male Problem.

            Did you keep watching? Because you will regret it if you stop.

            1. That’s what people tell me, but I just couldn’t make it through the handwringing in the first episodes.

              I mean really, do you think a real world equivalent of Jessie would anguish so much over killing another dealer that had tried to kill him?

              1. I mean really, do you think a real world equivalent of Jessie would anguish so much over killing another dealer that had tried to kill him?

                Yes, because Jesse is a screw-up goof, not a hardcore gangbanger.

          2. Or the ultimate example of that Goodfellows. Henry Hill is not the psycho killer that Jimmy and Tony are. But he goes along with them for the money and the excitement just the same. He never has a lot of thought about what is actually going on. That and how the life is ultimately his undoing, is a lot more interesting than someone sitting around whining and worrying about how horrible they are being, but continuing to do it anyway.

            You can have characters who have consciences and think about the consequences of what they have done or are doing. But then the guy has to reform and the story becomes about redemption. But if he doesn’t reform, you just have some whinny weak person who can’t accept the consequences of what he is doing.

          3. They are scared that if they show a protoganist just off the guy as any normal person in that situation would that people would scream about it.

            Holy shit, are you serious? MNG, what does it say about you that you think “normal people” woudl just kill without reflection on the regular if its convenient for them?

            1. “kill without reflection on the regular if its convenient for them?”

              Er, the dude tried to kill them.

              1. Are we talking about the guy locked in the basement? Because after your self-defense/rage/passion/adrenalin subsides, it doesn’t seem to follow that you could just wind yourself back up and go down there and kill someone.

            2. In MNG’s defense, a normal person wouldn’t go into the meth business in the first place. I am sorry, but you get into drug dealing and you then act shocked that you have to kill someone? Really?

              1. I don’t know John, consensual dealing of drugs < killing.

                My thing is that people would have little qualms about killing someone who just tried to kill them.

                It was somewhat believable with the main character, but I didn’t for a minute buy the anguish from Jessie.

              2. Most drug dealers don’t wind up killing people, John. You need to get out of McLean or whatever gated ‘burb you live in.

                1. True they don’t. But if I decided to go into drug dealing tomorrow RBM, I would substantially increase my weapons collection. And I wouldn’t be shocked if one of my competitors kicked down my door one night intending to rob me.

                  If I am not willing to kill someone in self defense, I really probably should find another line of work. Sure, I would hope I wouldn’t have to. But if the time came, so be it. If I felt otherwise, I wouldn’t get into the business.

                  I think the guy in breaking bad is a whinny bitch. If he doesn’t want the consequences of being that line of work, why did he do it?

                  1. It’s the second episode, John, for the love of god. You expect a family man and nebbish chemist to just become Scarface in two days worth of activity?

          4. I think the creators are pussies. They are scared that if they show a protoganist just off the guy as any normal person in that situation would that people would scream about it.

            I agree. They should man up and let the protagonist off someone if he deserves it.

              1. Oh, “Dexter”, I get it.

      2. I couldn’t get into Breaking Bad either, but for entirely different reasons. I thought that the anguish offer killing the second guy seemed realistic enough. I imagine that it would be easy to come to the conclusion that killing the guy is what you need to do, but I don’t think that most people who have never really had to use violence would have such an easy time killing a person.

      3. Only in the movies do people anguish that much over killing someone who almost killed them.

        Well. Fucking. Said.

        1. How many people have you had to kill?

          I don’t mean to be snarky, but I imagine it must be hard to say how you would feel about such a situation unless it happens to you. I am pretty sure I would not hesitate to kill someone to defend myself or a loved one, but to kill someone after the fact who poses no immediate threat I can only imagine woudl be a whole different thing. Maybe I’m a wuss, or maybe you and John and MNG are cold, hard, motherfuckers. But I think that you overstate the case for how easy it would be for most people to kill, even if intellectually they knew that it was their only real option.

          1. I don’t mean to be snarky, but I imagine it must be hard to say how you would feel about such a situation unless it happens to you. I am pretty sure I would not hesitate to kill someone to defend myself or a loved one, but to kill someone after the fact who poses no immediate threat

            I think maybe that’s the crux of the problem. I interpreted MNG’s comment to assume: “And is going to continue to try to kill you from hereon out”.

            Maybe I’m a wuss, or maybe you and John and MNG are cold, hard, motherfuckers.

            Speaking only for myself, no. And that’s not the point. I don’t believe that self defense makes one a cold, hard, motherfucker.

            In fact, I’ve had many a gen-x style conversation with my friends about how we would do thus and so in the zombie apocalypse, and we all agreed that it would be very hard to survive around other cold, hard, motherfuckers who you thought might be dangerous or were willing to shoot you first. Because we’re not the types who shoot other people first thinking they might be a danger– shorter: playing defense sucks.

            But using the made up situation in the movie and taking it at face value, it always seems the characters’ apprehension about killing someone who we, the viewer knows already tried to kill you and will continue to do so throughout the film… just seems unrealistic.

            I’m also not going to comment on the method of killing someone. Because I’m not a cold, hard, motherfucker. I just play one on tv.

            1. I suppose the perception of the immediacy of the threat is the major factor. Never having been in a situation where I thought someone would try to kill me, I can really only speculate.

            2. And to clarify, the “cold hard motherfucker” bit was about killing the guy tied up in the basement. I think that most normal people would be quite able to kill in self defense.

              1. Context is everything.

                If I caught some guy anally raping my 9-yo daughter and I overpowered him and got him tied up, it would be very hard for me not to kill him… while he was tied up.

                But god willing I’ll never face that test.

        2. This internet tough guy stuff is hilarious.

          John, MNG, Paul – you are all so full of it.

    2. Meh, I kinda liked the Coney Island thing because of the way they reveal at the end that was really the important footage the government was interested in.

      The monster destroying NYC footage they didn’t give a shit about. And why would they? They probably had infinity feet of film of that.

  6. I hate super power movies where the makers have little knowledge or ties to comics. Usually the powers are ill-defined and over the top and the point of the movie is some vague wish fulfillment “hey, look how f*cking cool it would be to do this!” There’s no drama, the superpowered person just plows through people, demonstrating superpowered feats. Boring.

  7. So I’m guessing Seattle gets destroyed in this movie. I might have to go just to see that.

    1. So the kids are a proxy for Mike McGinn?

  8. Who comes up with all that stuff. Wow. Man that is like way cool!

    http://www.surfing-anon.tk

    1. Last name Derp? Pretty meta, even for you, anon-bot.

  9. I’ll be interested to see how they deal with the camera. In a lot of found footage sort of movies, there comes a point when the premise that someone happened to be taping becomes ridiculous. District 9 was a good example of that.

    1. I disagree. District 9 abandoned the documentary about halfway through and just turned into a regular movie. And really, it was all they could do at that point because yes, why would this strange person be following him around filming him while he transformed into an alien.

      Cloverfield was the best example of that. Blair Witch was a good example of that but pulled it off well in my opinion.

      But I agree with your overall point. I’m always curious to see how they pull of the use of the camera when any normal person would have dropped saying, “Fuck this noise.”

      1. “Wave for the camera, Shelly!”

      2. Sorry, District 9 was a good example of dealing poorly with the camera. Once they realized that they couldn’t keep up the documentary pretense, they shoudl have just dropped it. I don’t think it added much to that movie.

        1. Once they realized that they couldn’t keep up the documentary pretense, they shoudl have just dropped it.

          They did… about halfway through the movie. Actually, I’ve got the movie up right now and I esitmate they drop the found-footage documentary angle at about 32 minutes in.

          Yeah, actually they did. They stop using security camera footage and cut to the Van De Merwe residence at 32:55 and from then on out, it’s really just a regular movie with the occasional cut to an interview or ‘security-cam’ footage.

  10. …the fake monster-invasion movie “Cloverfield,”…

    Was the qualifier really necessary? Is there a danger we might get it confused with actual, real footage of a real monster invasion?

    1. I’ve got a fake monster invasion on film.

      Oh wait, that’s another thread.

    2. I thought he was saying Cloverfield was a fake movie.

      1. All movies are fake.

    3. I literally think it’s related to A. Barton Hinkle Heimerschmidt’s “literally”-memed blog.

  11. but with the camera’s movement literally an extension of his mind

    LITERALLY!

  12. Has anybody seen “Troll Hunter?” I thought it was a good use of the found-footage idea, and it has beautiful Norwegian scenery. The special effects are pretty good, if that is your thing.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Troll_Hunter

    1. I think someone mentioned this in a previous thread a few months ago. It’s on my list to check out.

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