(Published in Issue 7 of my publication In Retrospect)
Directed by Josh Trank, Chronicle is a found footage style science fiction film that sees three high school friends, Andrew Detmer (Dane DeHaan), Steve Montgomery (Michael B. Jordan), and Matt Garetty (Alex Russell), gain superpowers after making an incredible discovery. Whilst at first they only use their telekinetic abilities in secret, they soon find their lives spinning out of control and their new bond of friendship tested. Realising that their newfound super powers can be manipulated and strengthened, Andrew, who has spent his life being pushed around by both his family and his classmates, begins to embrace his darker side. Identifying himself as an apex predator, Andrew convinces himself that he shouldn’t have to feel guilty for using his powers, especially when using them to hurt those weaker than himself.
The film begins with, believe it or not, our protagonist Andrew buying a hand-held camera and, intending to take it everywhere he goes, decides to start filming the ins-and-outs of his daily life. Whilst at first this opens up the darker side of the film, seeing Andrew’s drunk father haul abuse at him, the film quickly and cleverly develops into something much more than a typical superhero teen drama.
Chronicle is a new twist on the traditional theme. With many other films currently experimenting with the camera-footage/documentary style genre, including that of the recent Apollo 18 and the Paranormal Activity franchise, Chronicle is a more of an imaginative approach to the genre. With a less-horror more-action styled take, you can actually enjoy the film without being scared out of your skin or wondering what’s going on from the shaky camera and use of dark settings. Found-footage films often lack story and character development, but Chronicle breaks these genre boundaries and goes beyond by encompassing a gripping central which, for director Trank, is an incredible accomplishment for his first film.
In going beyond, Chronicle uses many techniques to avoid only having footage that is filmed by one person. As well as the use of camera phones, security footage, and police surveillance tapes, Andrew learns to pilot his camcorder with his mind, thereby finding a fourth party to fill in much more plot than we would normally expect. Through this technique, especially with the camera being able to hold itself up, we also get to know the characters much better. The three friends are genuinely quite likeable which, being able to form an opinion in itself, is a step up altogether. Finding yourself actually caring about what happens to these three main characters alongside this filming style allows us, as the audience, to actually find ourselves relating to the experience.
But even though the film is primarily filmed on low-definition cameras, the visuals throughout this film are fantastic. Without any need for big special effects like bigger budget action films, Chronicle has great cinematography without the need for massive explosions or any other similarities to superhero movies such as Iron Man. Chronicle is far from mainstream, and because of this the film looks genuine and works without having to impress with unnecessary additions.
So, will Chronicle stand out against this year’s many other superhero films? With Marvel’s The Avengers (or Avengers Assemble as it is now titled), The Dark Knight Rises and The Amazing Spider-Man set to be released this, I think it definitely has a chance of being well-remembered in comparison to them, as it has undeniably raised the bar for found-footage and teenage superhero style films.
Some of the film did have to be toned down for its PG-13 rating but, whilst at the core there is an incredibly dark and intense story, Chronicle is still a fun and intelligent film to watch.
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