A Look At Josh Trank’s Chronicle

Josh Trank’s directorial career is in serious jeopardy since Fantastic Four has not only flopped, but has become an infamous failure, thanks in part to his ill-conceived tweet on the eve of the troubled film’s release that disavowed it as not his work. This added fuel to the fire about his professionalism and merits as a filmmaker. These developments have led many to question if he has the right temperament for the business. It’s too early to tell how this will play out, but one thing that can’t be denied is that with his first film Chronicle he displayed promising talent with a movie that mashed the superhero and found-footage genres. Here is a review.

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The “found footage” sub-genre may elicit many groans and complaints from moviegoers. While Chronicle at first didn’t seem all that different from films of this type with its slightly mundane first act when it introduced stereotypical characters, it turned out to be a refreshing viewing experience. Unlike most “found footage” movies, this wasn’t a horror film, but rather about three teenage boys who developed telekinetic powers and how it affected them. Before long the film turned out to be a pleasantly surprising with its plot development and execution.

The main camera used in Chronicle is operated by one of the boys, Andrew Detmer (Dane DeHaan), a shy, emo type who picks up the hobby of videotaping his life. Andrew clearly doesn’t have a happy life in school or at home. He’s shunned and picked on by bullies, his father’s a violent alcoholic and his mother is dying of cancer. At some point, he goes to a rave party with his outgoing cousin Matt Garetty (Alex Russell), and they run into the ultra-popular Steve Montgomery (Michael B. Jordan), who’s running for school president.  The three leave the party and discover a hole in the ground near the party. After hearing strange sounds coming from it they descend into the hole to investigate. Deep down they encounter a crystalline structure of unknown origin that pulses and causes them to have nosebleeds.

The movie jumped ahead in time to where the trio are experimenting with their newly acquired telekinetic powers. They treat it as a fun diversion and bond together while carrying out pranks with their powers. But it soon becomes clear that their powers are increasing and that Andrew’s inner demons causes him to become more and more malicious with his powers.

That was the best twist with the film. We’ve all been expecting to see the lovable shy loser get super powers and then run off to save the world. Sadly, this doesn’t happen with Andrew, he’s clearly not Peter Parker, as he uses his abilities to hurt others. But, the character was so well presented and three dimensional that despite his increasingly violent actions, one can’t help but sympathize with his situation, while fearing him. Andrew thought that the powers would change his life for the better, but they haven’t. He is still unpopular, his father continues berating him and he cannot save his mother.

In the meantime, Matt and Steve defy the popular jock stereotypes and become more sympathetic. Matt soon realizes that they have to be responsible with their powers. This doesn’t mean he wants them to fight crime, only to not use the powers to harm living things. This difference in opinion will ultimately lead to a clash between the two cousins. Kudos goes to the three actors who play the three friends, the bond they share over their secret powers and the joy they have at first is apparent and one can’t help but marvel at their telekinetic displays.

Whereas something as simple as levitating a ball may seem humdrum in an X-Men film, in Chronicle it truly came off as a marvel. With that said the final act of the film was jaw-dropping thanks to its special effects that put more expensive superhero films to shame in the wow factor as a major battle takes place in the skies over Seattle.

Put aside any complaints about Fantastic Four when considering Josh Trank’s debut film. Chronicle is still a well-made production that showed promise and indicated that Josh Trank would have a memorable filmmaking career. Trank should be commended for Chronicle’s execution because the “found footage” technique added to the reality of what moviegoers saw before their eyes. Unfortunately, as terrific as Chronicle was,  Trank suffered the sophomore curse big time with his disjointed Fantastic Four. It is a poorly made film that has clear evidence of studio tampering (as seen by the haphazard third act) and it’s so-called grounded and gritty take of Marvel Comics’ superheroes was misguided from the start. It proves that undertaking a big-scale production was too much for the young director. However, if given another chance to direct a smaller production like Chronicle, Trank might be able to develop his skills and find some redemption.

Lewis T. Grove

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Latest Version Of Fantastic Four Is Doomed

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After torturing myself from watching Fantastic Four, the new cash grab reboot by 20th Century Fox to hold on to the film rights to Marvel Comics’ legendary superhero team, I’m convinced that the film studio doesn’t know what to do with this franchise. How bad was Fantastic Four? Let’s put it this way, not only does it make the Tim Story Fantastic Four films seem like Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy films, but I would rather watch Batman & Robin again than sit through this monstrosity one more time. Seriously, at least those films can be enjoyed on an “it’s so bad, it’s hysterical” level while drunk or high. This dreary, dour film doesn’t even have that guilty pleasure value.

I’m not exaggerating when I say this film is an ff castinsult to the Fantastic Four and to superhero films. It’s obvious that almost everyone involved in this film from director Josh Trank to the actors don’t respect the source material or have a clue as to what made the comic book work. At least, Tim Story had enough sense to pay homage to the comic books and captured many parts of it like the banter, the feeling of family, the sense of fun. All of that is missing here. The cast has no synergy, there isn’t any joy or excitement or even adventure with this reboot. Instead Josh Trank gives us a pretentious and sloppily slapped together mess that is evidence that control of the film was taken away from him in post production. Not that it helped.

richardsThere are half-hearted attempts in the first third to create some character developments, but then they’re dropped. For instance, when Johnny Storm (Michael B. Jordan) is confronting his father Franklin (Reg. E. Cathey, who gives the best performance in this cesspool), there is a hint that he is jealous of his adopted sister Sue (Kate Mara), but it’s never brought up again. Remember how Johnny would always tease Ben Grimm in the comics and earlier films? That only happens once, at the end. That’s right, and it Johnny’s sole attempt at humor came off as being mean-spirited for no good reason. The opening third tries to copy Spielberg’s sense of wonder, but all I got where endless scenes of people looking at blueprints and computer screens and Reed Richards (Miles Teller) wandering around hallways and spouting exposition. It isn’t until forty five minutes into a ninety-minute film that the characters get their powers and basically not do much with them until the end.

Then without warning, Fantastic Four becomes a poor man’s David Cronenberg body horror film, which was kind of intriguing, but undeveloped especially with Ben Grimm (Jamie Bell). What could’ve been a good showcase for him is a lost opportunity and that’s a @!#$ shame because in this muddle there is a nugget of something that could’ve been stellar. The other attempt at body horror is actually quite laughable. When Reed Richards is first shown all stretched out on an exam table like a Stretch Armstrong doll I couldn’t stop rolling my eyes on how silly he looked.

doomedFinally, Fantastic Four completely goes off the rails in the final third that tries to be an action superhero film, but collapses when the villain Victor Von Doom (Tobey Kebbell) appears. This version of Dr. Doom incredibly redeems the Tim Story version! Doom here just shows up in the last fifteen minutes or so, blows up people’s heads with telekinesis and screams corny lines about the evils of humanity. He doesn’t look menacing but like a stupid combo of the Mummy and a metallic Freddy Krueger. This Doom has none of his comic book counterpart’s bravado and power. The only merciful thing to say about Dr. Doom is that his screen time is so short you can take a bathroom break when he first appears and he’ll gone by the time you return. BTW, most of those clips you’ve seen in the trailers don’t appear in the finished film.

Oh God, I have a headache right now thinking about the film. I’m going to pull out my old Fantastic Four DVDs to wash out the memories of witnessing this summer’s real Trainwreck. I think I’ll also go see Ant-Man again this weekend for good measure. With that let me conclude this review with an open letter to 20th Century Fox:

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Dear Fox:

Your company has struck out three times with the Fantastic Four. Each time you tried to improve the film franchise you only dug the grave deeper for the First Family of Marvel superheroes. Now you have released what will be known as one of the worst superhero films. You clearly don’t understand why they launched the Marvel Comics phenomenon and this reboot is a disrespect to the First Family and its fans.

By refusing to let the rights go back to Marvel and making bad films, you’re ruining your reputation and good will. Honestly, I’m questioning if I should bother to pay money to see more X-Men films and their spinoffs.

You’ve tried, but we’re getting diminishing returns here. Be honest with yourself and your shareholders. The bottom line is the dollar, but by continuing to produce these insulting adaptations you are alienating viewers and are putting your future profit at risk.

OK, keep the X-Men franchise, you’ve done good with it for the most part and there’s word that you want to do a TV show based on those mutants. Well, since you need to negotiate with Marvel for the TV rights, why not earn some cred and give the Fantastic Four rights back to Marvel? Don’t be a tool and hold onto the rights for another five or seven years then crank out another piece of crap out of spite. Just let it go.

Waldermann Rivera

 

Still Skeptical About The Fantastic Four

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As I’m getting ready to watch the Super Bowl (mostly for the trailers and commercials, I have no stake in the Patriots or the Seahawks), I keep thinking about the trailer for The Fantastic Four that was recently released.

Twentieth Century Fox released it I think to quiet all the complaining from the genre community about how we didn’t have any info (not even an official image) from the controversial reboot. Seriously, they needed to have done that for the longest time and I think some of the animosity towards the film can be blamed on the lack of marketing.

Anyway, looking around the Internet I keep viewing videos and reading articles stating how good the film looks and how we can all breathe easier knowing that director Josh Trank is going to deliver a superb film with a new take on the Fantastic Four.

Honestly, I wasn’t impressed.

dick miles

When Fox announced the cast last year, I was very skeptical about the film right away from looking at the cast. And I still am. Yes, I do admit that the actors are well regarded like Miles Teller (for his role in Whiplash) and Michael B. Jordan. But as I said in my old post, these actors look too young. It’s undeniable that this reboot is taking its inspiration from the lackluster Ultimate Comics version of the Fantastic Four from last decade. In that version, the team was made up of young prodigies who travel to another dimension and get their powers by doing so. It didn’t work because that family dynamic from the original team was missing. Reed is supposed to be the distant father figure, Ben the grumpy uncle, Sue the mother figure and soul of the team, and Johnny being the young kid brother. I didn’t get that impression from the comic book and I don’t see it in this trailer.

Obviously, something like that can’t be shown in a teaser, but the team is made up of youngsters to attract the Twilight/The Hunger Games crowd and that is a big mistake. Why? This choice to go young undermines a basic core of what made the Fantastic Four work.

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Another vital aspect missing or at least not shown in the trailer was a sense of wonder and good nature. Another reason why the Fantastic Four worked in the comics was for its light humor, fanciful sci-fi, and adventure. Those were missing in the trailer. Instead we were treated to a grim, dour and generic-looking sci-fi film that looks like it could’ve been directed by David Fincher. In past press releases, the filmmakers kept saying this film is supposed to have a more grounded and gritty approach, but that doesn’t work for the team. It seems like Trank and company wanted to copy the look and feel of Christopher Nolan’s Batman films. The film should’ve emulated Guardians of the Galaxy which gave off a fun, adventurous vibe. That would’ve being a better match. Perhaps Fox should’ve offered the film to James Gunn instead. While I’m at it, for all the complaints lodged at Tim Story’s Fantastic Four films at least they captured the essence of the team. It’s just that those films were doomed with bad casting, low budgets and weak scripts.

I’ll admit The Fantastic Four trailer is well shot and doesn’t look like a disaster, but it hit all the wrong buttons for me. I’m not excited about seeing this and I doubt I’ll go to the trouble of seeing it in a theater.

T. Rod Jones

The New So-Called Fantastic Four

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Ruining the good vibe from the recently released Guardians Of The Galaxy trailer, 2oth Century Fox had to go ahead and throw this turd sandwich at genre fans. The cast for their reboot of the Fantastic Four will include Miles Teller as Mr. Fantastic (gee Josh Trank, thanks a lot for lying to us since this past summer by denying Teller was in the running for the role), Michael B. Jordan as the Human Torch (the PC casting of the year), Kate Mara as the Invisible Woman (the character should go back to being called Invisible Girl given how young this actress looks) and Jamie Bell as the Thing (ooh, this guy sure looks tough!). Forget about Jesse Eisenberg playing Lex Luthor. These are the worst casting choices for a superhero film since Halle Berry played Catwoman and Jennifer Garner paraded as Elektra.

Just seeing these people together makes me physically ill. This does not look like the Fantastic Four to me, but like a bunch of kids playing superheroes in a school play. Honestly, we were better off with the Tim Story version of the Fantastic Four, hell, even the cast from Roger Corman stillborn version looked better than this bunch.

It’s pretty clear that Fox and Trank fail to grasp the essence of the Fantastic Four. They are a dysfunctional real FFfamily unit, Mr. Fantastic is the father figure, the Thing is the grumpy uncle, Invisible Woman has the big sister/mother hen role, and the Human Torch was the brash young kid of the group. This cast looks like they’re just now able to legally buy alcohol. At least with the Tim Story Fantastic Four films, the cast filled out those roles to different degrees of success. Yeah, I’ll admit Julian McMahon and Jessica Alba were the most miscast actors in the bunch, but the rest captured the essence of their roles well. Say what you want about Ioan Gruffudd, but he did a fine job as Mr. Fantastic. OK, so he wasn’t the most dynamic character, but Mr. Fantastic is supposed to be a stoic, intellectual type and Gruffudd showed that. Miles Teller doesn’t look like the brainy type, but as the kind of kid who plays pranks on others. And Mr. Fantastic is supposed to be approaching middle age, that’s why he’s the father figure. You’re not going to get that from this whippersnapper!

What is more troubling are the rumors that Dr. Doom will probably be played by a woman (Lady Doom?!), and worse the leaked premise which goes against the traditional version of the team. Supposedly, Mr. Fantastic and the Thing got their powers as kids and were used by the government as living weapons! Then later on they meet the brother and sister team of the Human Torch and Invisible Woman. I’m just groaning right now thinking about this. I can understand wanting to update origins by making changes. But the core of the character and his or her situation must remain the same.

Look at Iron Man, Spider-Man and Superman. Their films had major changes done with the characters, but they were basically the same people that fans loved. Iron Man wasn’t born in the jungles of Vietnam as in the comic books but rather in Afghanistan. He was still a pompous a-hole who had to learn some humility because of his heart problem. The two film versions of Spider-Man were different with their origin stories; his Uncle Ben’s death was more tied in with Spider-Man’s callous behavior. The people he went to school with have changed from the comic books. Liz Allen is absent while Gwen Stacy and Mary Jane Watson in both film versions have filled in that high school sweetheart role. But the core of Spider-Man is the same: a geeky loner kid who gets super powers and doesn’t become a hero right away. With last year’s Man Of Steel there were changes done to Superman’s origin: his father dies in a tornado, Zod killed his biological father, but the main gist of Superman was intact. He was still an alien infant sent to Earth from a dying world and he grows up to become a superhero. Does it look like we’ll get a version of the Fantastic Four that is true to their nature with this reboot. Not likely!

I don’t like the idea of rooting for a superhero film to fail. But this just feels all wrong and at this point I refuse to reward Fox by spending my hard-to-get money on this upcoming movie. Why couldn’t the ffSuperman/Batman film come out next summer as originally planned? At least the hoopla for that would’ve drowned out this reboot. So after The Avengers: Age Of Ultron, the next superhero film on my radar will be Ant-Man, because I’m bypassing this stinkfest altogether. The worst thing about this pending fiasco is that Marvel Studios won’t be getting back the rights for the Fantastic Four. Let’s all pray this reboot bombs at the box office so that Marvel can regain the rights quicker and eventually produce a more genuine version of the team that sticks to its roots.

So thanks a lot Fox for spoiling my morning. “Sigh,” I just hope Stan Lee doesn’t do a cameo in this DOA production.

T. Rod Jones