Chronicle

Director: Josh Trank
Starring: Dane DeHaan, Alex Russel and Michael B. Jordan
Released: Feb 1, 2012 

Found footage movies are really starting to piss me off.
There, I said it.
It’s not professional, it’s not articulate, and there’s a good chance that there might even be kids reading this. But I don’t care. Because its pissing me off.

To be more specific, it’s the continuation of trends that are pissing me off. Someone notices that a few films of a certain type do well, and suddenly everyone jumps on the band wagon to make a ton of copycat movies.
All this ranting aside, Chronicle is a pretty good film, even though the found footage does little to add to the overall experience.

The plot:
When three teens stumble across a strange glowing thing, they become badass superheros.

…All right, there is a little more to the plot than that. For one thing, the word ‘superhero’ isn’t used, even though this is clearly the direction that the director is directing the audience to, directly. Instead, their powers are labelled simply as telekinesis. Once these powers are discovered, the three kids decide to use them not for good, nor for evil…they decide to use them to screw with people’s heads.

This is a decidedly fresh take on the superhero genre, the antithesis of Kick Ass to a certain degree. Rather than having a regular guy dress up as a superhero and fight evil, it has actual superhero’s acting like a bunch of dicks and generally just getting kicks out of their new abilities. A few laughs come out of this, and a certain feeling of elation as the boys realise more and more of their potential. The characters are very relatable, making the unfolding events thoroughly engaging. However, once we approach the third act, certain superhero tropes start to become overly familiar.

To be fair, just about every superhero movie needs a villain, otherwise the audience would leave feeling thoroughly unfulfilled. And while the eventual conclusion is spectacular, especially considering the found-footage nature of the film, it does come off as somewhat predictable after the rest of the film is so inspired in terms of originality.

Another issue that one might have with the film is, why do they even bother to make it a found footage film at all? One of the major problems with ‘found footage’ films is that the camera tends to be ridiculously shaky, and is very limited in terms of camera angles and shots. This isn’t the case here, as one of the teens, Andrew (DeHaan), starts to use his telekinetic abilities to make the camera levitate around them, allowing for plenty of sweeping shots. These shots are terrific and the film wouldn’t even be regarded as the ‘found footage’ variety if it weren’t for the occasional footage from a few security cameras. Also, one scene in particular, which sees Andrew inexplicably retrieve a number of camera phones in order to make them float around him feels ridiculously far-fetched.

These issues aside, Chronicle is relentlessly entertaining. It is particularly refreshing to have the audience relate to the villainous character, rather than the ‘hero’. Unlike other superhero movies that tend to deal with a black and white morality system, it is easy to see why our anti-hero goes on his whirlwind tour of destruction. From the outside, it’s plain to see that his actions are Wrong. However, put in his position, one has to wonder how they would deal with the unfolding events. Abusive parents, bullies at school, awkwardness around girls…most of these are semi-relatable problems that evoke sympathy, making the finale a thoroughly ambivalent one.

The three teens all submit good performances. Alex Russel, who portrays Matt, feels somewhat underused, but this is to be expected in these found footage films. The real star, naturally, is DeHaan, who manages to stir emotions of many kinds while constantly radiating an unsettling creepiness through expression and behaviour.

Overall:
Despite the fact that the irrepressible ‘found footage’ genre is becoming increasingly frustrating, and adds very little to this particular film, Chronicle is nonetheless a solid piece of work. Trank, the director (who is relatively new to the business) does an impressive job in creating a delicate balance between comedy, action and emotion. Now here’s hoping they don’t screw it up by making a godawful sequel.

Rating: 7/10

Oh wow, look! A nerd with a camera.” – Matt

Shamelessly Awful Facts:

  • The Jameson Film Festival afforded me a way to see this film without paying for it. The whole way through the film, I had a self-composed song called ‘I’m such a badass’ stuck in my head.
  • Rumors are currently circulating around the directors involvement with a Fantastic Four reboot…
  • One of the teens was in the TV series The Wire AND in Gears of War 3. (hint: He’s the cool one known as…Steve)

This film is kind of like:

  • Taking hundreds of pictures of your drunken night out and not realising it was a bad idea until the day after.

or

  • What Superman would do if he grew up in the north side of Dublin
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