By: Bryan Montgomery
Rating: 8 out of 10
The found-footage genre has absolutely exploded over the last few years, giving both outstanding examples of the application of the genre (Cloverfield) along with some of the worst (The Devil Inside). Now that all of the gimmicks have been run through, filmmakers are doing their best to get creative. Chronicle is another genre-defining film, offering not only a good found-footage spectacle but also one of the better superhero films of the last few years.
Three teenage boys, Andrew, Steve and Matt, discover that they have developed superpowers after finding a mysterious artifact. However, as time goes on and the teenagers’ powers mature and grow stronger, they begin to lose the ability to control their abilities as well as their temper, with disastrous results.
I was sold on Chronicle from the first trailer, as molding the found-footage genre with a very well-written and dark story seemed appealing, especially in the vein of a superhero tale. At the outset, Chronicle seems to be another movie that just uses the addictive platform to its advantage, telling a mediocre story with no-name actors in an attempt to maintain the illusion that these events actually occurred. But the film quickly distances itself from other films in the genre by adding a high amount of dimension to all of the characters from the outset.
Andrew is the focal point of this film. An outcast in school, Andrew quickly strengthens his abilities at a rate faster than the other two characters, but is the one who is easily corruptible and later becomes the main antagonist of the film. Dane DeHaan makes a solid first impression in this role, embodying the character and making all of his decisions and actions believable. Andrew’s rise and subsequent fall is easily the most entertaining part of this film and is likely to be what this movie is remembered for in the future.
In fact, most of the memorable sequences come from when the three teens are together and they have the opportunity to talk about the powers they were given. Watching the powers evolve is also entertaining, especially when Andrew learns to take his camera and levitate it to higher vantage points and angles. It is a very neat thing to see and is used to great success later in the film.
What will surprise many is how dark this film turns. For a found-footage film about a bunch of teenagers, Chronicle director Josh Trank decides to take the dark road fast, raising the stakes and even dropping the bodies early and often. There is a high cost for all of the characters involved in this film and once the film starts to turn dark, it stays dark until the credits roll. The film is very fast-paced and quickly transcends a boring opening to be a 90-minute exciting spectacle that tells a story about teenagers getting super powers as well as depicting a story of the tribulations of growing up, especially in a difficult environment.
Another cool innovation that Trank uses somewhat bends the fabric of the found-footage genre. Using the advantages of this technological generation, any piece of technology with a camera on it is used in the film to help depict what is happening in the story. Everything from cell phones to iPads are being used in the movie, to some very cool effects during the climax of the film. Avoiding the one-camera trap that films often fall into in this genre helps Chronicle define itself and separate from the masses.
Chronicle seems to be a film that is walking the same beaten path early on, but soon enough the film uses some smart innovations and a solid story supported by a great cast to become something different. Not only is Chronicle one of the films that defines found-footage cinema, it is also one of the better superhero films to come along in the last three years. Definitely check out Chronicle.