Saw the movie Chronicle a couple of weeks ago with my best friend David. It was a pretty decent SF movie. The story is about three teenagers that come across an artifact that gifts/curses them with telekinetic or psychokinetic, whichever you prefer, abilities. We experience them learning to control their power and become stronger. One of them goes bad and must be stopped. That is the simple bare-bones synopsis. If you haven't seen Chronicle yet and would like to I suggest you stop reading now. This is your spoiler alert alert.
First let's start with the trailer:
Now the very first time I saw this trailer I was excited. The SF geek in me was jumping around with glee. It looked like some director in hollywood finally understood the superhero genre and was willing to explore it from a very basic level point of view. It is not unlike M. Night Shyamalan's excellent film "Unbreakable", also about the genesis of a person that develops extra-normal powers, albeit "Chronicle" is on a slightly grander scale. But there was something in the back of my mind that was strongly whispering, "I hope they don't... I hope they don't..." while I watched the trailer.
That voice persisted as I watched the movie and about 20-25 minutes in the thing I was hoping against happened. The Black character, Steve, gets killed. It never fails. Don't get me wrong, I know exactly why Steve had to be eliminated from the story, however, did they have to go with the standard hollywood cliche of, kill the Black character? In a movie that takes great pains to bring the superhero story form to realistic perspective they have the one Black character be the stereotypical hollywood "Super Duper Magical Negro": He's good, tries his best to help his white friend, and dies/gets killed for his efforts. After a lifetime of seeing and reading this in films/movies and stories, it has become more of an annoyance than something to truly become angered by. But by the end of the film I found myself becoming angry. I wanted to like this film. I do like this film. BUT I have a huge problem with it simply for this one reason.
It is obvious that the director and screenwriter(s) for this film completely get film and the history of superhero stories. They even get the ridiculousness of ethnic stereotypes, and you can see that in the trailer when Steve uses his power to move the lady's car, and when she comes out looking for it he says, "Yes, it was the Black guy this time." That very scene brings up and shows the movies creators are completely aware of the negative stereotypes used against Black people, and they are making fun of it, as Steve is a popular, honor student in High School and not a criminal out to hurt white people. And yet in making fun of this very well known and harmful stereotype, they default to using the most well known hollywood film/movie stereotype, and kill this great character Steve, who just happens to be Black. Again, I know why he had to go but did they have to kill him? For a film that takes such effort to show an old story type, the superhero, in a new way, it is highly disappointing to see them fall back on such a classic and offensive trope, no matter how justified it is by story: Kill the Black Guy.
As a Sci-Fi geek this movie gets two thumbs up. As a man that is Black, I'm severely disappointed and offended.