Young filmmakers — especially those doing horror and on an extremely low budget — love making the camera a character. Usually there’s an irritating, but mostly unseen character behind the camera. Obnoxious commentary by said recorder follows.
Ten minutes into the camera as a character flick and you’re wanting whatever monster, alien from a UFO or ghost they’re tracking to do away with them — permanently.
Chronicle meets the above complaint with an exception. Writer/director Josh Trank manages to create a scenario where the camera adds to rather than distracts from. At least most of the time. Or better — enough of the time to make his film palatable.
Set in Seattle, three high-school kids discover an object that obviously isn’t from this planet. Where it’s from or what it is never gets defined. And once Chronicle kicks into gear, you don’t care anyway.
A few minutes of contact with the object gives them superpowers. It allows them to control and move objects with their minds. A ball thrown at them stops in mid-air. They learn to move heavy objects such as cars. As the powers grow, so does their ability to manipulate more than one object at a time.
Eventually, they learn to fly.
Trank and his co-writers have a blast with the three kids as they learn to master their new superpowers. There are lots of laughs and some fun effects. And best of all, he avoids the temptation to turn the three kids into hideous looking monsters, or icky aliens.
Instead, the focus is on youth being wasted on the young. One of the boys — Andrew — lives in a very dysfunctional home. You root like hell for poor Andrew, but you know in the end he doesn’t have a prayer of winning life’s game. Dad is a drunk. Mom is dying. He’s insecure and has been bullied all of his life. It’s the recipe movies like this need for a crisis, the disaster that leads to a shattering climax and a life lesson.
Though it is quite soft in the middle, Chronicle has enough original moments to keep your interest. Trank has to push hard to get his film to close to 90 minutes. The growing friendship, the blossoming Andrew and learning experience the three friends go through is fascinating. Even — at times — uplifting. Once powers are mastered, things slow down.
The climax, however, is intense and with excellent effects. While experimental in many ways and redundant in others, Chronicle works on enough levels to make it worth — well — chronicling.
Mr. Movie rating: 4 stars
Rated PG-13 for mature themes and intense violence. It opens Friday, Feb. 3 at Regal’s Columbia Center 8, the Fairchild Cinemas 12 and Walla Walla Grand Cinemas.
5 stars to 4 1/2 stars: Must see on the big screen
4 stars to 3 1/2 stars: Good film, see it if it's your type of movie.
3 stars to 2 1/2 stars: Wait until it comes out on video.
2 stars to 1 star: Don't bother.
0 stars: Speaks for itself.