Directed By: Josh Trank
Released: February 2012
Run Time: 82 Minutes
Dane DeHann: Andrew
Alex Russell: Matt
Michael B. Jordan: Steve
Michael Kelly: Richard
The found-footage genre is a strange genre. It doesn’t work unless it’s used with another genre: science fiction, horror or war movies. The term refers to the technique that involves the movie being seen from a first-person perspective via video camera. The first film to feature this technique was the controversial film, Cannibal Holocaust. The most well-known found-footage film was 1999’s The Blair Witch Project. More often than not, these types of films are hit or miss, but mostly miss. Movies like Paranormal Activity are being churned out every year and it’s not as interesting anymore, since most of them generally involve the paranormal. There are a few notable exceptions: Cloverfield was basically a found-footage Godzilla movie which was pretty effective. Into The Storm is a very recent one that has the audience on the ground with the storm-chasers. It was pretty awesome. There are a lot of these films out there, but most of them don’t cut it. In 2012, up-and-coming director Josh Trank gives us Chronicle. It’s a superhero movie, but it’s unlike anything I’ve seen before.
The film begins as soon as Andrew turns on his camera. We see him in his room, and then we hear his drunken father banging on the door. At this point, Andrew decides to record EVERYTHING. From his life at home to his experience at school, we witness Andrew being abused and bullied with only his cousin Matt to keep him sane. After a party, Matt’s friend Steve convinces Andrew to check something out that he and Matt found. Under the ground is an usual glowing object. As soon as they touch it, everything blacks out. Later, we discover that Matt, Andrew and Steve have developed unique “abilities.” At first it’s telekinesis, then super-strength and finally, the ability to fly. Superhero movies are nothing new. They’ve been around for decades. But nobody had actually tried to see things from a superhero’s perspective. Chronicle does just that. Granted, towards the beginning, these kids are just discovering their powers and having fun with them, but they learn that there are consequences to using them. Dane DeHann’s characer, Andrew, has a bit of a darkness to him. He’s been abused and bullied, and he’s put up with it for years.
Story-wise, Chronicle is predictable. It definitely utilizes a lot of the characteristics of other superhero movies. But it also dares to ask the question: What would you do if you had these powers? We see early on after getting these powers, the kids are playing pranks in a local store. When you watch that, it’s hilarious. It’s funny, because it’s probably something that I would do with those gifts. The interactions between Andrew, Matt and Steve are fantastic, because these are kids just out trying to have fun and discover what they can do. There’s definitely a lot of light moments in the film, but it does take a darker turn. It’s kind of predictable, though. The whole found-footage aspect in this film works surprisingly well. You can definitely see what’s going on, but it also changes perspectives from time to time, giving us a different look at what’s happening. If it’s not from another person’s camera-phone, it’s from a security camera or a cop car camera. When things hit the fan, they really hit the fan. The last act of the movie is exactly what you would expect from a superhero flick. It’s awesome.
Dane DeHann is one to watch. His performance as Andrew is fantastic. Andrew is an introvert, shy, and spends a lot of time by himself and generally out of view of other people. I like the character because he’s somebody I can relate to and sympathize with. While I fortunately don’t have a drunken and abusive father, I do spend a lot of time keeping a distance between myself and other people. It’s natural that some people tend to gravitate towards these kinds of characters. It’s kind of like looking into a mirror, only without superpowers. Alex Russell plays Andrew’s somewhat nerdy cousin who actually cares about Andrew. Michael B. Jordan plays the stereotypical sports guy. In conjunction with the other two, Jordan can be downright hysterical. Michael Kelly plays Andrew’s drunken father. I can’t imagine it’s really that hard to play a drunken jack-ass, but Kelly does it pretty well. The relationship between him and Andrew is obviously very antagonistic and ends up leading to one of the least surprising, yet satisfying confrontations in the movie.
The action is absolutely fantastic, and given that it’s taken from nearly a first-person perspective, it’s exhilarating at times. There’s a scene in which the three kids are flying around in the sky, so being able to see that from a certain perspective is exciting. There’s definitely a good chunk of destruction(not on the level of Man of Steel, mind you), but it’s done on such an intimate level that it’s genuinely thrilling and not as over-the-top as you would expect. Unfortunately, a lot of the visuals are CG, so it kind of takes you out of the experience a little bit. Also, with Chronicle being a found-footage movie there’s a lot of shaky cam going on, so those with motion-sickness may want to avoid the film. At 82 minutes, Chronicle doesn’t overstay its welcome and moves along at a brisk pace. The other thing I noticed was the near lack of music. There’s no bombastic superhero theme going on at all. In fact, most of the music is done through the radio and background noise. It adds a little more ambiance to the whole experience, and it really works. This movie is a lot better than it should have been, but not quite as good as it needed to be. There are a few hiccups here and there, and it’s still a teen drama in the middle of it all. But Dane DeHann’s performance sells the whole thing. I think he’s got real potential. Chronicle gets an 8/10, mostly for doing something different with the superhero genre. I think it’s definitely worth a watch.