The key question here is: how do you view this movie? Is it an allegorical view of the pressures teens are under today, or a science fiction based thriller revolving around three young men who discover super human powers? I viewed it as the latter but the former struck me as I thought about the movie.
Looking at the movie itself, these may be dark times to be a camera-man in Hollywood with the ever increasing number of movies which seem to need hand-held home movie cameras, be it the Blair Witch Project, Cloverfield or even Troll Hunter (the recent Norwegian offering). Where this movie differs is that it is not meant to be a mockumentary (similarly to CLoverfield) but rather a movie which allows the protagonists to be portrayed from their own perspective, through the use of the handheld. Their musings to the camera give a view to their frame of mind and allow for a glimpse of their view on the world around them.
John Trank directed this debut offing after co-writing it with Max Landis (John Landis’ son) and what we have here is three young men from different social and school backgrounds who some how also manage to be friends (two of the characters are actually cousins). Looking at them, they seem to represent a fairly “typical” cross-section of high-school life. Recent movies like “Fright Night” (Craig Gillespie 2011) and “Red State” (Kevin Smith 2011) are shying away from using high-school jocks & “cool” kids and using more main-stream examples of high-school students and this movie carries on this trend.
What you don’t get in this movie is answers; you don’t learn where the mysterious crystal came from, you don’t know much about the boys’ backgrounds (like what really brings them together) other than what is immediately necessary for the story and unlike most other sci-fi movies there are no swarms of government agencies descending to control the situation as in Super 8 (J.J. Abrams 2011).
Soon after their discovery they begin to notice their own growing powers and realise that it is like a “muscle” that needs to be trained in order to gain in strength. What unfolds is a view of what happened Clark Kent or Peter Parker in their respective stories, only is it from the perspective of the struggle in dealing with how to adapt to these news powers. There is no sense of romantic dreaming here, the guys are thinking no further than the fun these powers can generate. The boys react differently to their gifts and ultimately it comes down to a battle between good and evil (as ever) or as they put it in the film – hubris and responsibility.
The hand-held camera work which might have threatened to derail the movie is carefully rationed and only used for plot purposes to move us to a climax worthy of Iron Man (John Favreau 2008) as we witness a modern urban clash of the would-be titans.
This is a well crafted work which is to the credit of the writers and director, as well as the young cast. It explores the boys’ reactions to their abilities and how, ultimately, they must find their respective places in very differing worlds. As I mentioned earlier we can read much in the way of allegory into this movie, but I prefer to witness how the director cuts away any un-necessary backstory to focus purely on the young men in question. This not a cheap standard Sci-fi B movie, in my view, but rather a thriller, or even a coming of age movie which uses the sci-fi genre as its vehicle, rather like Brick (Rian Johnson 2005) used Noir in that classic.
Not the longest movie in the world, it moves along at a steady pace, well worth going to see.
Rating 6/10 maybe 7/10 a solid 3 *** movie that should entertain.