- Rated PG-13
- Buy the BD
All photos © 20th Century Fox
Reviewed by Jason Zingale
ith the exception of “The Blair Witch Project” and “Cloverfield,” the whole found-footage craze has generally failed to impress me as a viable storytelling device. Josh Trank’s “Chronicle” is the latest film to utilize this low-budget technique, and though it probably would have worked just as well without the gimmick, it delivers a fresh take on both the found-footage and superhero genres thanks to a smart script and solid performances from its cast. We’ve all seen the superhero origin story played out plenty of times before, but “Chronicle” is the first movie (save for perhaps “X-Men: First Class”) that tells it from the villain’s point of view.
That may sound a tad spoilerish for those that haven’t seen the trailer, but the moment we're introduced to the film’s protagonist, Andrew (Dane DeHaan), it’s pretty clear that he won't be following in the footsteps of Peter Parker. A shy outcast who’s bullied at school, Andrew’s lone friend is his cousin Matt (Alex Russell), who seemingly only hangs out with him because they’re family. When Matt drags him to a party one night and the pair investigates a mysterious hole in the woods along with popular classmate Steve (Michael B. Jordan), they're exposed to some sort of alien technology that grants them telekinetic powers. But instead of throwing on a pair of tights and fighting crime, the trio does what every other teenage boy would do in the same situation: they play pranks on unsuspecting victims, bonding over their abilities as they grow stronger. When Andrew causes a car accident while fooling around, however, Matt decides to create some ground rules, although Andrew has other ideas.
Though a lot of found-footage movies don’t usually have a sensible reason for why the events are being recorded, “Chronicle” smartly gives Andrew motivation for hauling his camera around everywhere he goes. It starts out as a way of documenting his alcoholic father’s (Michael Kelly) abusive behavior, but it eventually becomes more like a barrier that protects him from having to interact with other people. The gimmick yields a few nagging questions – like why any of the characters would still bother filming during the action-packed third act, or how all of the footage (comprised of three different handheld cameras and several security cameras) was edited together – but it does immerse the audience further into the story, particularly as we witness the evolution of Andrew from social outcast to supervillain. And because the characters can control just about any object with their minds, the notorious shaky-cam isn't an issue for very long; instead, cameras float around with silky smooth precision and a more dynamic range of shots.
That certainly helps to take your mind off the idea that you’re watching a found-footage film, even if the script (written by Max Landis, son of legendary director John Landis) has a tendency to remind the audience about the omnipresent camera a little too often. The CGI also isn’t perfect, but it looks really good for a movie shot on such a small budget, while the three lead actors convincingly sell the wish-fulfillment rush of suddenly being blessed with superpowers. It may not have the most original story, and some people will be annoyed by the lack of explanation behind their powers, but "Chronicle" is a cool and clever twist on the coming-of-age origin tale that fans of the genre will really enjoy.