This was one of my early anticipated films of the year. I was excited for this film since I first saw the teaser way back last year. And when the good reviews started pouring in, I became ecstatic. But if anybody knows me, heightened expectations can really mess with me. So what did I think? The film follows Andrew (Dane DeHaan), a bullied, troubled teen whose mom is dying, and whose father (Michael Kelly) is an abusive drunk. His only friend is his cousin, Matt (Alex Russell). One night, Matt talks Andrew into going to a party, where they, along with the most popular kid in school, Steve (Michael B. Jordan), they discover a small cave off in the woods. In the cave is a crystal that somehow gives them telekinetic powers. Slowly but surely, they begin to train and grow their abilities, discovering new things they can do with the power (body shield, flying, etc.). Unfortunately, Andrew, the strongest of the three, is a little unstable... and the power might be a little too much for him to handle.
I'll come right out and say it: I freakin' loved this movie. Even with my high expectations, I came out on a very positive side. The acting is good, the story is good. Jason Soto and I had a recent discussion about how all films of this type (handheld camera movies) always start off slow and build up. Sure, that's true. But it's all about how it's handled. I felt this movie did it well, building the characters, their relationships and personalities. Andrew doesn't just suddenly snap. You can tell there's a little something wrong simmering through the entire film. Matt turns from kind of a douche into a bit of a hero, while Steve shows how not all popular kids are complete bastards. And the evolution of their abilities is nice and gradual, all leading up to a rather epic finale.
One of the things I totally loved about the film was how they handled the handheld camera style. It's incredibly unique, and while other films have tinkered with these ideas, this film just about masters them. Because of the story and what it gives us, the camera is able to give us some pretty good angles. The director was able to use his imagination and really explore the possibilities. Also, it's not just a single camera. The film plays out in what a written story would call present tense. This is not a past tense, found footage film. To quote another film, "We're in now now. Everything that's happening now, is happening now." It just so happens that the method with which to show us this story is handheld cameras--whether it be video cameras, phones, security feed, etc. Some have complained that the film all but stops the style of filmmaking in the third act, but I disagree. I think that's when the movie is at its most creative with the style. I don't think the director is cheating in the style, but rather expanding on it and playing with it.
I won't say, though, that there was nothing wrong with the film. In fact, my main complaints are camera related. For instance, it's quite clear in some scenes, especially the rave near the beginning, that the shots we're getting are not possible based on how the camera is positioned. Like, there's a moment where we go back and forth between two cameras that are facing each other, but the one Andrew is holding is pointing off to the side. But when we see the camera's perspective, it would be pointing straight ahead. Things like that. Fortunately, that doesn't happen much, especially after they get their powers. And like a lot of films of this style, we're treated to some "Why would they take the camera there?" moments. Thankfully, most of these are explained through the use of all the other camera types that this film employs. But once or twice, it makes no sense--the hospital scene right before the climax, for instance. Why would they set up a camera right there? It makes no sense.
On the whole, though, I was blown away by this movie. I wouldn't be surprised if it ended up on my Top 10 of the year (probably closer to the 10 side, if this year is as great as I'm expecting it to be). But still, I really did love it. It was a mix of the style and playfulness of it and just the fact the story was about kids who gain superpowers, which is a dream for most boys (or, at least, me). And it was all portrayed pretty realistically. You might not appreciate it or even love it as much as I did, but it's a solid movie, and I think it'll be hard not to at least like it.