Journal Entry: Sat Feb 11, 2012, 10:11 AM
It's the kind of movie that makes you want to make your own movie. Sometimes that's a compliment, sometimes it isn't. This is a little of both.
Chronicle, as you may know, is about a group of teenagers who come across some buried crystalline object which gives them telekinetic powers. Their powers grow stronger the more they're used, so they're eventually able to fly, crush cars, and all other manner of impossible feats. The three kids that get the powers are from many walks of teenage life: Steve, the outspoken extrovert running for Class President, Matt, the average guy dealing with usual teenage problems, and Andrew, the bitter, dark-voiced little malcontent dealing with a dying mother, a cartoonishly abusive father, and being generally the school's punching bag. He's also Matt's cousin, which will be important later.
Possible spoilers ahead.
The movie is praised for its "realism", I suppose, because it's something I like to call a "camcorder adventure"; the sort of movie where someone (in this case, Andrew) inexplicably has a camcorder that can produce footage as good as a professional 35mm camera. It has editing characteristic of someone just pushing the Record and Stop buttons for the cuts, as well as a lot of long takes and shaky-cam footage (though good on this movie to realize that kids with telekinetic powers can levitate the camera and hold it much more steadily).
I've never really been worked up about camcorder adventures, like The Blair Witch Project and Cloverfield, but they remain an irresistible curiosity. The movie has some cool scenes, like when the group learns how to fly and rocket through the air at blistering speeds, and... well, basically that, really. I guess there's also the ending, but you'd rather see that yourself, I'm sure.
From there, the movie hurls forward on a predictable trajectory. Andrew fancies himself an "apex predator" now, above the rest of humanity and free to do whatever he likes with them, so he wonders why on earth he needs to put up with his goonish father. I don't know if any real people display that kind of silly abuse, but if they did, it would surprise me.
By the end, Andrew's just decided "screw it", and decides to re-enact the end of Akira, sans the weird, disgusting growth that Tetsuo goes through. Matt tries to stop him, as he's been trying to maintain discipline about this whole sordid affair, but Andrew, not unreasonably, fails to see how he would enforce this, and doesn't take it seriously.
Andrew is supposedly a "realistic" character, in that he's not a perfect movie child, but I wasn't really drawn to him, because he doesn't evolve as a character. He's the same sullen jerk that he was at the beginning of the film, but he just gained a better means to make the world go his way. If he didn't have telekinetic powers, he probably would have committed a school shooting. He has occasional glints of complexity, like when he saves Steve from getting hit by a jet while they're out flying, when he explains his desire to go to Tibet, which briefly exposes his more sensitive side, and when he enters a talent show with his telekinesis, and briefly overcomes his crippling shyness. Of course this doesn't last long, as he plunges straight into supervillain mode shortly after this. Matt's probably the most compelling character in the film because he comes the closest to being heroic, even though the extent of his heroism is to stop Andrew.
I guess the movie just felt too steady about the characters suddenly gaining remarkable superpowers in a world where superpowers aren't really the norm. You would think that's not the sort of thing they would use to win a talent show. I don't think they'd get taken immediately by the government, partly because that's such a cliché angle, partly because the US government hasn't displayed that kind of tight reaction time since the 60s, though Andrew's spaz-out at the end of the movie would probably attract their attention. Hopefully in the sequel, they dissect his brain and find out what happened, try to weaponize or commercialize it, and shit hits the fan. Holy crap, that actually sounds awesome!
And that's the sticking point, really; Chronicle is the sort of movie that makes you imagine other movies. A lot of the times, I encounter stories and movies that don't really appreciate their premise that well, and that sends my brain inevitably thinking about ways I would have acted on this idea. Chronicle, in particular, re-emerged this particular concept I've been thinking about for a while; an idea for a webcomic called "Providence, Pennsylvania".
The other things that made me think of Providence, Pennsylvania are pretty numerous: the origin stories of various Marvel superheroes, like Doc Samson and Komodo and Spider-Man and so on, had taken people with a less than ideal body image, whether they're really nebbish or disabled or something, and had gotten superpowers that take them into such the opposite extreme of how they were, that it becomes kind of silly. Not only do they have incredible superpowers, but they're also all studly and awesome and can be on magazine covers.
Spinnerette is also a webcomic that caught my eye on one or two occasions as kind of a Horatian superhero satire where superheroes are common, but they're depicted in a really silly way. The main character, as well, bears resemblance to Spider-Man if he was a far more goofy character; like if he had six arms, shot webbing out his butt rather than his wrists, and if he got his powers not from being bit by a spider, but by accidentally getting shot with a giant laser. I couldn't get too into it, though; its humour was too overblown, many of its plotlines and character designs were distractingly foolish, my suspension of disbelief was too severely challenged by the main character's attempts to keep her secret, two-armed identity, and again, none of the characters seemed to react appropriately to their situation. They treat getting superpowers with the same level of awe as finding a really good Chinese restaurant.
But anyway, "Providence, Pennsylvania" is about an eponymous small town in Pennsylvania. It was a former mining town, but has fallen on hard times following the mine's closure. Then one night, there's an inexplicable event which suddenly causes all the townsfolk to gain powers like super strength, endurance, and durability, but has also idealized their appearances to look like comic book characters. All the men have become burly Adonises, and all the women like curvy Aphrodites. The event has also made them age slower, so the teenagers remain as teenagers for a long time, as well as the children.
What I hope to do with this comic is how a real-world society would react to a sudden population of comic book characters in their midst, and how that population would react, as well. The town suddenly experiences a tourist boom as people flock to see these astounding specimens, and the town's infrastructure is groaning under the weight of it. The other towns in the country refuse to cooperate with Providence, due to the huge economic imbalance of the town's tourism, and that they no longer have the need to import and export goods as much as they needed to. Policing in the town has also become more difficult, since everyone in the town has super strength and invulnerability to bullets. Government workers may also be sneaking around the town trying to figure out the nature of the event, but no one, including me, is too sure.
The story arcs would focus on different characters in the town, and one of the groups of characters I intend to put the camera on are a group of teenagers. Body image is a common thing teenagers are worried about, especially with childhood obesity on the rise, and when several of these characters suddenly have strapping chests in the case of the men, and svelte curves in the case of the women, this is a shock to them. On the one hand, they're no longer fat and slobbish, but on the other, when they look into the mirror, they don't recognize the person staring back. They also have to contend with the fact that they will probably be teenagers for decades to come, and they are part of one of the strangest populations of people in American history.
I'm hoping I can depict teenagers more authentically in this comic, because in Chronicle, they seem to be mainly on the level of whooping fanatics who see their superpowers as some kind of extreme sport. Maybe teenagers are quicker to accept these things than I give them credit for, but you'd think they wouldn't consider getting superpowers to be a particularly "normal" thing. The superhero movie is a popular genre nowadays, but sometimes filmmakers don't want to make a superhero movie, and try to do a superhero movie with some things dropped and some things added. Chronicle is about superpowered people that don't become heroes right from the get-go, but unfortunately, that means they don't have much to do. Making a "different" superhero story probably isn't about adding or cutting elements from a conventional story; it's about seeing its premise and doing something else with it.
Listening to: Foster the People - Torches
Reading: 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
Watching: the release date for The Secret World of Arrietty
Playing: El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron
Eating: Raspberry jam on toast
Drinking: Pepsi Lime