Monday, July 23, 2012

Chronicle of a Villain

DeHaan in Chronicle
     A villain is only as bad as he is good.  If there is no depth to him/her, than the battle between good and evil is so much less interesting.  As much as I love Harry Potter, even I'll admit Voldemort was a little too bad to be hugely interesting.  Snape turned into the far better villain and ultimately the better hero.  It is far better to have a complex character with shades of good and bad.  This causes the audience to sometimes (to their shock and horror) sympathize and understand the villain's point of view.  The best recent case of a nuanced villain can be found in the movie Chronicle.  In the movie, three boys mysteriously gain superpowers, documenting their story on handheld (and mind held) cameras.  The origin of their powers is never fully explained, but it only adds to the mystery of the movie.  The true focus is instead on the affects of the power, and the notion that "absolute power absolutely corrupts." The three boys, played by Dane DeHaan, Alex Russell, and Michael B. Jordan play with their newly gained powers with abandon, quickly disregarding rules as they prank a convenience store with their telepathy and play football in the sky. As I watched the movie, I realized how little fun most heroes get to have with their powers.  Chronicle reveled in the fun, particularly as the camera whipped through the air with the fly boys.  The movie didn't hesitate to then  show the consequences of uncontrolled power.
     Arguably playing the main character, Dane DeHaan portrays a boy who was powerless in his sad family life and in school.  All of his sudden power starts to corrode him, morphing him into an angry and vindictive villain in the movies climatic ending.  Throughout the movie, DeHaan's character is the most sympathetic character.  I wanted good things for him and truly mourned for him when a series of circumstances and choices led him to a dark path.  Alex Russell, who play's DeHaan's cousin, is forced into the role of hero, with all its consequences in the final scenes.  Though Russell's character is heroic, it it not his movie.  It is the villain's movie, and made all the better for it.  Chronicle did well by word of mouth, though nowhere near as well as movies like The Avengers or Thor, which also cast a sometimes sympathetic Tom Hiddleston to play Loki.  Even so, Chronicle is every bit as deserving of your attention.  It is one of the most refreshing hero and villain movies in a sea of superhero movies.  Watch it and see who you root for.  You may surprise yourself.

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