A friend and I were supposed to meet up to write today. When I asked her if we were still on, she suggested that we see a movie instead. I’m always up for any reason not to work on my synopsis, so I readily agreed. She was the one who chose Chronicle (I let her choose, for I was the one who chose Joyful Noise last time, and I’m not sure she’s forgiven me yet). I didn’t even know what Chronicle was; I’d heard absolutely nothing about it. All Fandango told me was, “Three high-school friends make a discovery that gives them incredible powers.”

Powers? I’m in.

I was a little worried when the movie started, and I saw that it was another one of those found-footage movies. I’ve been leery ever since Cloverfield. While I liked the concept of Cloverfield, the whole found-footage part is what didn’t always work for me. There was a little too much of the jerky camera thing when the kids were running for their lives, too. (Not as bad as it was in The Blair Witch Project (Ugh!), but bad enough.) It wasn’t always believable why the kids were filming certain things… plus I remember feeling like the aftermath of the alien attack would have made for a far more interesting story.

But I digress.

What this movie did well from the get-go was characterization, especially with our main character Andrew. He was shy, socially awkward, and had a terrible home life (an abusive father and a dying mother). It made sense, in a way, why a kid like this would be recording his life. Partly in hopes to ward off his father’s fists, partly to capture some of the last moments he’d have with his mother, partly to put up even more of a barrier between himself and his schoolmates. And maybe, in a way, to record some of his final days of his senior year in high school.

Andrew’s only real friend is a his cousin Matt. (Hello, hottie!) Early on, Matt–worried about Andrew’s anti-social behavior–convinces him to come to a party being thrown in an abandoned barn. Andrew agrees reluctantly, and despite Matt’s warning, brings along his trusty camera. After an altercation with a guy in the party, Andrew ends up back outside by himself. Steve–a gregarious guy running for class president–finds Andrew, and tells him he should come with him, that he and Matt have found something amazing and they want to get it on camera. (Hello, hottie #2!)

The three boys venture into a mysterious hole in the ground–the aforementioned “discovery”–are exposed to some freaky glowing… something… and, next thing we know, they’re blessed with powers. It starts off small: being able to stop a baseball mid-throw, levitating legos. They learn that they have to build up their ability, to train it like a muscle. They push it too far, too fast? They end up with nose bleeds. Soon they can move bigger and bigger objects. Then they discover that they can fly, too.

The effects blew me away. And, coupled with the easy way in which the three boys interact with each other, it felt real (and voyeuristic!), too. That these seemingly impossible events really happened somehow.

With your average superhero movie, those bestowed with powers have some sort of noble duty, some important cause. But in this case, you just had three high school boys with the ability to move objects with their minds, to fly. So they did boy-things. They made plans. When things started to get out of control, they set up rules.

It was cool to see the beginnings of both a villain and a hero. Villainous backstories are often a little flimsy to me, but this one made sense. It was easy to see how someone who’d felt powerless all his life would start to change in light of his new abilities. How all his pent up rage essentially became a weapon.

When all hell started to break loose, it was fun to see all the different mediums used to continue the story when we couldn’t have Andrew’s ever-present camera. We got to see footage from cell phones and security cameras and other handheld recorders. Whereas Cloverfield felt limited, Trank utilized multiple types of cameras to give us the full effect of the chaos without it feeling too jarring or hokey. Despite the format, it still managed to feel like a superhero movie. Which is pretty amazing, I think.

It was an unexpectedly fun ride.

If you aren’t opposed to the found-footage genre (this one won’t make you throw up in your popcorn bucket due to motion sickness–promise!), and you like superheroes, you should check it out. It’s worth a viewing for the effects alone.

It’ll make your inner nerd hope like hell that there are other caverns like that somewhere. Because, really, who hasn’t wondered what it’d be like to fly?

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