If you’re a regular reader of this blog then you will know that I rarely do movie or music reviews. There is a good reason for this – it’s because of my brother Matthew and his flat-mates. Some time ago, I made the mistake – the very severe mistake, it soon transpired – of telling them all about how I’d walked into HMV a few days before and found myself holding in my hands and subsequently buying a DVD box-set. Not just any DVD box-set but The Descent and The Descent 2 in one affordable package that was just crying out to be bought (the conversation then continued, where I revealed, foolishly, that I had also once bought the Jaws DVD box-set, which contained Jaws 2, 3 and 4 but no original Jaws. A very bad move on my part which frequently returns to haunt me, even though Jaws is on IT4 practically every single week right now). It was then that they all pounced upon me at once, mocking me for being such a stupid fool, and not listening to my very valid reasons for buying the box-set (I loved The Descent, so the sequel was worth taking a chance on). Everyone knows The Descent 2 is bloody awful and a total waste of money, was the general consensus of the day. And from that day on I vowed never to do a movie or music review again (which wasn’t difficult to be honest, as by then I’d been on a four-year or so long roll of doing exactly that), just in case they might read it and make it their mission to harass me about it.
Now I am being a big brave boy and breaking that silence. Join me as I attack the latest Hollywood moc-documentary “masterpiece,” entitled Chronicle. Come on people, if you hate overly enthusiastic CGI and irritating, stereotypical American college life as depicted on the big screen, let us together rip it limb from limb!
I’ve always been one to go against the grain, so I’m not going to pretend I’m not enjoying this. I’m not just saying it either, now I shall prove it. A fine example of this proof can be found in my childhood. Firstly, when I was 9 I would only spread St. Ivel Gold margarine on my bread (which meant Mum had to buy this every week as well as the “normal” margarine), and secondly, when I was at secondary school I went against the grain by never buying chips in the canteen, even though not buying them broadcasted to the masses that you had no intention of becoming one of the crowd. That’s right, everyone bought chips, and there I was not buying them. Sometimes, though, I liked to mix it up. So this would often mean that on Tuesday’s I wouldn’t buy chips and on Thursdays I wouldn’t buy, say, spicy potato wedges (I would vary the days of course, but that wasn’t important, it was more the moral that counted). All this low-key anarchy went under the radar of those outside my immediate posse, of course – we all agreed we were in a posse, not a gang – but we didn’t care; that’s what it’s like when you blaze a trail against all the odds. The point was that we were standing up for what was right and un-cool. Also, most days I had a packed lunch, so buying additional potato-based snacks wasn’t really necessary. As you can see I was very much the lady magnet back then.
Going into this showing of Chronicle, I had that unsettling and slightly doomed feeling going on – that classic timeless one that says “what I am about to experience is both not going to satisfy me, and make me wish I hadn’t spent £8.95”. However, this feeling was quickly quashed. Before handing over my ticket I’d been to Burger King and purchased £6.95s worth of XL Bacon Double Cheeseburger meal, which was actually really good. Good or not, the burger was obviously abysmal quality. I’d already wasted that much, so why not continue with the risk of spending more?
I’m not silly, of course. After the quagmire of controversy that was the DVD box-sets debacle I had learnt one important lesson: always get the opinion of someone with worthy film knowledge before going to buy a DVD box-set or pay for a cinema ticket. In this case, my brother Maff – official name Matthew – had given me the go-ahead to see Chronicle. It wasn’t much, just a sentence – “I’ve heard it’s good” – but it was enough to inspire me with confidence. Maff never says a film is good unless he is certain, and anyone who knows my brother will tell you that he has a generally impeccable taste when it comes to film and cinema. I did say generally.
Sitting down and getting comfortable, I obviously wasn’t comfortable – I am 6 feet of man and this always means sitting sideways with my legs spread out, which probably gives me the appearance of a man who is either a) settling down to pleasure himself or b) come into the cinema to have a good sleep rather than watch the film – but I was most definitely ready. I was mildly interested about what was about to happen. You might say I was off my guard.
And this was just the problem, because it was now that a trailer for new, bloody awful romantic comedy This Means War infected the big screen. The main problem being that as I watched the trailer, I found myself about to have a panic attack, as it very much seemed like this was not a trailer but actually the entire film. For five minutes or so – but what felt like half an hour – the ten or so people around me who were either freelance or had jobs that allowed them the privilege of sitting in the cinema at 5pm in the afternoon, were subjected to cinema at its most unappealing, and likely left panicking, like me, if they had wandered into the wrong screen. Reese Witherspoon made the trailer just about sit-through-able, prancing about with little on to R ‘n’ B, but the premise of the movie – two secret agents go to war against each other in pursuit of their mutual love affection – shone out like a neon turd in a very dark, grim swimming-pool. If you haven’t seen the trailers for this hideous excuse of a film yet, please see one, if only for protection. That way, if you ever accidentally turn the channel over in five years time and find yourself watching this tripe, you will know it immediately and be able to take evasive action. Thanks to my sage advice, you will save yourself lots of time. Time which I will not get back. Let’s move on.
Chronicle should be amazing, and the fact that it isn’t makes me want to smash things up (second to smashing the ticket machine up so I can retrieve that wasted £8.95). It should be fantastic. With a fairly original concept – college teens discover a source of otherworldly power deep within the ground – and a budget that most countries badly afflicted with AIDS are absolutely crying out for, it’s got all the ingredients for a quality film. There are many reasons it is not fantastic or amazing, but I will begin with the first one: it’s just too much.
Just too much isn’t always bad. For example, there’s a pub in our village – can’t tell you which as I don’t want to ruin this best-kept secret – that sells fish and chips to takeaway for just 5 pounds! Providing you don’t get the stingy chef – I still haven’t worked out how to completely avoid the days he is working – you are basically guaranteed an impressive meal of too-much-food. Either there are two pieces of fish and loads of chips, or just a massive piece of fish that will dwarf most standard dinner plates. Watching Chronicle, then, is a bit like ordering a massive piece of fish and then discovering that on the way to putting it in the box, the chef must have dropped it in loads of crushed-up Ecstasy or other well-known hallucinogen (Class A drugs obviously have no business being in a kitchen, but if you’ve ever worked in a really stressful one then you could almost forgive a chef for this mistake, I think).
Explosions. Buses flying through the air. Angry teenagers. A feeble American teenager who goes on a journey where he becomes precisely what you knew he would all along (I won’t tell you what, at the slim risk that after reading this ‘review’ you miraculously decide to go and see the film). Chronicle has all this and more, including no good explanation about how any of this came to be, and a slew of comic moments which attempt to distract the viewer from the slew of enormous plot-holes. Worst of all, though, it leaves the possibility of a sequel ringing in your ears within the first 30 minutes.
What I find impressive, reading this post through, is that I have got this far without even remotely telling you the basic plot. If an editor-type had me by the leash, I’d have received a smack on the bum for being so vague, but seeing as this is my blog I can get away with that kind of thing. Trust me, when you spend all your time dealing with people who constantly want you to change your work to suit their taste, you’d take every chance you get as well.
For the sake of it though, here’s the basic premise: 3 college guys who can’t help mentioning Schopenhauer and Jung in daily conversation – dialogue which has nothing to do with the film’s so-called clever message, of course… – enter a hole in the ground and find a strange glowing…thing. You don’t see much of it, other than getting the distinct impression that whatever it is is organic and alive and potentially dangerous. Events rapidly progress after this, and via the progressively more tedious moc-documentary style film-making technique which is quickly running out of original options, we get to witness the 3 guys — who I can’t be bothered to describe here — growing ever-stronger in their powers. These powers take the form of picking stuff up and chucking it about, basically, and all that kind of stuff. All of this means that watching Chronicle is a bit like watching two old filthy-rich men talk about the olden days: being them, following a life-time of experiences and outrageous fun, would no doubt be a brilliant time. But watching them – did I mention one of them is wearing shorts and keeps…falling out? – gets quickly tiresome.
If there’s one thing Chronicle does get right it’s the special effects and mind-blowing visuals. If you’re pissed-off with life and wondering what it would be like to pick up your boss’s car and throw it through several skyscrapers, then surround your living-room with plasma TVs and leave Chronicle on repeat. Otherwise, do yourself a favour and go and see The Grey with Liam Neeson. Maff says it is good. But then…