The Films of Josh Trank
Chronicle (February 3/12)
A superior found-footage thriller, Chronicle follows three high schoolers (Dane DeHaan's Andrew, Alex Russell's Matt, and Michael B. Jordan's Steve) as they discover an unusual cave and are subsequently able to perform a wide variety of telekinetic tasks - with the film thereafter detailing the trio's increasingly flamboyant adventures as they discover and exploit their powers. It's rather remarkable just how involving Chronicle ultimately becomes, as the decision to emphasize Andrew's abusive home and school lives results in a disappointingly generic feel - with this vibe persisting right up until the three friends' discovery of the aforementioned cave. From there, although filmmaker Josh Trank, working from a script by Max Landis, curiously (and disappointingly) omits the characters' initial discovery of their powers, Chronicle becomes a far more involving endeavor than one might have initially anticipated - as there's just something inherently engrossing about the protagonists' efforts at using their newfound abilities to mess with one another (and, eventually, random bystanders). It is, as such, disappointing to note that the film does stumble in its decidedly repetitive midsection, with the emphasis on heroes' lighthearted exploits growing more and more tedious as time progresses. (On the positive side, however, there's really never a point at which one is able to comfortably guess just where all of this is going.) By the time it rolls into its enthralling, appreciatively over-the-top third act, Chronicle has certainly managed to establish itself as a seriously entertaining piece of work that's far, far better than the majority of its found-footage brethren.
An above-average comic-book adaptation, Fantastic Four follows Miles Teller's Reed Richards, Michael B. Jordan's Johnny Storm, Kate Mara's Sue Storm, and Jamie Bell's Ben Grimm as they're infected with otherworldly powers after a science experiment goes awry. The movie, which offers a full origin story for the protagonists, possesses a far more low-key vibe than one has come to expect from stories of this ilk, as director Josh Trank employs a lackadaisical pace that's clearly been designed to favor character development over action - with the subdued execution paving the way for a grounded atmosphere that fares relatively well (especially in comparison to the relentlessly over-the-top nature of most comic-book movies). The sporadic inclusion of engrossing sequences - eg the central foursome painfully acquire their powers - initially compensates for the erratic execution, although it's increasingly difficult not to wish Trank had infused the narrative with bursts of levity (ie where the 2005 movie was painfully lighthearted, this one is often dark to the point of distraction; is there no middle-ground to be had?) It's obvious, then, that Fantastic Four's unevenness becomes less problematic as it progresses into its third act, with the arrival of Toby Kebbell's Dr. Doom on the scene certainly providing the picture with a bolt of much-needed energy (ie the sequence in which Dr. Doom walks down a hallway exploding heads with his mind alone justifies the film's very existence). And although the movie concludes on exactly the kind of overblown note one might've feared, Fantastic Four is nevertheless, in the end, a decent introduction to a group of impressively appealing superheroes.