This is a pretty great idea, though hardly a new one, which is marred a great deal by the found footage conceit, which feels stupid and completely of its time. One wonders if they could only get the film made because of how trendy found footage was in the aughts.
At bottom this is basically just a Marvel Comics story adapted for the 21st century, albeit without other “mutants” in the world. But it’s the way that it is presented which feels (relatively) original. Though the opening is very cliche “loser in high school” much of what happens when the boys get their powers feel very authentic and true to what might actually happen.
We know where this is going but they do a good enough job of misdirection in terms of exactly how it will go – including who dies first – that it feels fresh. Moreover, though I don’t love DeHaan as a performer, much of what his character does feels pretty authentic for a lonely teenage boy. (His costume is pretty damn amazing.)
But all of this is undercut by the stupid found footage format. Found footage makes some sense in some movies. And when it first appeared, of course it was fresh and new and felt like a really cool way of utilizing video. And there are some truly classic movies made with this concept. (Blair Witch, [Rec], some others I can’t think of.) They try to put new spins on this – for example having more than one camera – but it still undercuts the effectiveness of the movie.
For example, Michael Kelly’s character gets shafted pretty hard by the plot, but not just by the plot but also by the way it’s filmed. Kelly’s performance feels like he’s not really giving his all, and I think it’s really the found footage concept that leaves his character without its necessary developed. (Also, they really could have had him care just a little bit more.)
And things get significantly worse in the climax, when the nature of the film requires stupid camera angles and a disorienting approach – as is common with these movies – which undercuts whatever tension which would make this movie good or near great.
Still, it’s a cool idea. I would have loved to see the traditional film of this story instead of the found footage film.