It's hard for me to discuss this without bringing up Akira, so I might as well put that down and try to end with more independent construals. This is pretty good, pretty solid. How close it approximated Akira (except the great music) makes the real planned North American remake/adaptation even more irrelevant.
Given, there are differences, and that makes it even better. But the gist is there, you have to admit. At the heart of Akira is growing up and the pains of teenage socials. This uses more of the drunk dad-powerless mom trope with a bit of the loser-kid. It's solid, if unexceptional. It gets the job done without copious amounts of melodrama. I wouldn't say I wanted them to act less, but I felt that they were sort of in the good side of in the middle. They weren't marooned in listless trying, but it would have been better if the character development were more subtle, or if they could have gone the other way and made it closer to excessive and had the characters chewing scenery (in a good way). Again, there is the sense that it's stuck in the middle, not in the usual horrible way, but slightly ill still.
The problem I had is that there seems to be some jab at development. We get little character scenes for the kids to have a personal moment, make them endearing/relatable/appropriate adjective. But it comes off a bit weak. I can't say the characters actually developed (which means there was a failure). There weren't really any struggles. We have swathes of trying to fit in and all that, but the core group (given that they aren't anything like each other) quickly, much too easily, get together and become best buds. the relationship is perfectly natural, you have to admit that. The dialogue is great and it doesn't come off as forced and there is a good rapport between the actors. But it sort of just happens. I guess having that big of a common experience brings people together so well, but it sort of comes off (again, very subtly—I'm nitpicking here) as glossing over things, skipping sequences, etcetera.
On the other side of making it full of angst and all, I can't say I'm sure it'll work out. There certainly has to be moderation, but I think there are points in the story that would allow something like this. Take in point the relationship between one of the leads and the drunk dad. I get it. It's a trope. There's a bit of violence and there was an early shaking-up scene that came off very raw, very good. But again, it's handled in the way that it's acknowledged, but an acknowledged afterthought. Same thing with the mother. She's dying, and there's certainly some sadness to it, but there isn't a wealth of resignation nor some press to make things better or even a bit of non-acknowledgement/denial. It's an important bit since it sets things up for later, but it's really underdeveloped.
It's kind of like if we're two classmates and I stole your eraser in the far past. I don't even have it any more and you can't even remember how it looked like. But you don't like me and that doesn't really bother me. We're civil but we don't look forward to each other. Then that incident is the take-off point to you blowing up the school.
What's great is that we're past the semi-clunky, a bit slow first third and we're sort of progressing to more dangerous stuff and darker stuff in general. There's also the sudden step-in of Ashley Hinshaw which I thought could work out for the Tetsuo character here, or maybe cause a tetsuo/Kaneda object of rift, but she's thrown aside and she's there in the story but the promise has been dashed. Nice bra-less white tank framed by a cardigan though.
This is more of the bits of drama the film has been trying to serve us half-baked. It isn't distracting, again. But you notice how forced it is a bit. The drama bits need work. There are highlights like the accident and was a good signal of deeper things to come, but the good acting stuff mostly resides in the comedy skits that weren't too excess but good enough that though they were Jackass they had me smiling and laughing.
The Tetsuo slowly descending into (sadly not implosion) evil was bit odd. I liked the bits where he wasn't talking or the camera was far away much more than him talking to the camera and documenting his emo shit, his sort of vigilante streak, his lashing out. I mean he lashed out against a very undesirable character without enticing us the least bit. That might need some props. There are some bits that could have been trimmed off. There's the date with the mom that is just stuck in between. There's the vigilante thing which sets up things later, again, but the production team could have gone with something they could execute better instead.
I'd have gone with the lightning storm with one party (still dead), but the other in the hospital (again). I think it's clean editing and would have done away with a bunch of stuff that are just there to make the plot turn. The Tetsuo/Kaneda confrontation could have been slugged in between the shouting match in the air instead.
I want to go into how this is a 'found footage' sort of thing, and how that is a bad idea. I see how it works. It worked well in Cloverfield and in Quarantine. And, surprise, it's a bit half-baked. It works in the early part, and the whole steadicam floating camera is a nice flourish. But it isn't necessary in the long run. Frequently, the Andrew Detmer character is asked why he is suddenly filming everything (that's a super expensive Canon videocam by the way, makes a good point that his schoolmates are idiots for dissing it) and he doesn't have an answer. He just wanted to, suddenly out of the blue. It's like Ashley Hinshaw's character being a video blogger.
It's not like the source of their powers which was unexplained. That's good because it keeps us away from big suits and white coats and more old tropes. This was done in the way that it doesn't really do anything but support the gimmick. Like Ashley Hinshaw having a camera isn't really important. We don't see how that is central to her cardboard character, so it comes off as just a way for us to continue viewing things through a camera.
The other thing I don't like is that it isn't even a 'proper' found-footage film. It doesn't rely on one camera. It forces characters to continue wielding their videocam for no reason except they want to. It uses surveillance cameras and news feeds etcetera. With all the cameras involved (and there a few sequences that don't seem to be coming from in-the-story cameras), I contend that they could have done away with the gimmick and gifted us with better resolution to boot. No more newsfeed/surveillance grain (and the resulting sudden screen switches) and we wouldn't have noticed anyway really.
Because the most important thing we're taken away from is good shots of good stunts. The stunts and the action is there. Besides some odd, a bit dull bits of crashing through things, it was pretty wow all around and I was excited and happy in my cinema seat. It's in the more action bits that the film shines. The final showdown was a joy to watch, even given that we're seeing everything from a distance (although I wish it were twice as long and with exponentially more damage).
The flying parts were also great and really captured the hypothetical if-you-could-suddenly-fly very well. Almost punny, the film found its element and we've soared away from all the requisite plot bits bogging the story down.
It's not the deepest most contemplative movie of all time. But it's fun and if all the generic actioners that come out every other month were more like this, I'd be in deep debt.
(Chronicle - Josh Trank)