Directed by: Josh Trank
Written by: Max Landis
Starring: Dan DeHaan, Alex Russell, Michael B. Jordan
Studio: Fox Home Entertainment
Review by: Bill Jones
Yes, Chronicle is a “found footage” film. Yes, it is another entry in the ever-crowded superpowers genre of films. And yes, it features a bunch of actors who will come previously unknown to many viewers.
And yet the film finds a way to buck the trends and provide an engaging experience that will leave many viewers satisfied beyond their expectations, but the same things that work to make it interesting also work to undermine what it is trying to accomplish at points.
The plot focuses on three teens — Andrew Detmer (Dane DeHaan), Matt Garetty (Alex Russell) and Steve Montgomery (Michael B. Jordan) — who come from somewhat different but mostly similar walks of life before they stumble upon a strange artifact. It seems to endow them with not only telekinetic powers but also nosebleeds.
Detmer also just happens to be entering a phase in his life where he’s filming everything, explained away in the opening lines by a simple proclamation to his abusive father that he’s filming everything now. And that’s where the film both finds and loses some of its appeal. Chronicle works hard to justify its use of found footage and gets creative in the ways it uses different devices with cameras to play around with multiple angles. But in the same breath it also keeps bringing to mind that it’s a gimmick that there’s no good reason to be using other than a small budget.
On the same note, the film’s plot requires a number of special effects, many of which don’t look particularly good. Sure, it is neat to see a bus flying through the air and into another super-powered person. But it sucks when there’s a scene of something being constructed with telepathy where the things floating looking like such poor CGI. Again, the same things that make the film enjoyable work to take the viewer out of it at the same time.
It’s a weird dichotomy that can also be seen in the film’s plot. As the teens come to grips with their powers and learn what they can do with them, they react differently, and it takes at least one character down a dark path of superiority. It’s a great premise, but much like how the ending of Lost tied things up in a profound way but still acted as an excuse to not answer a number of questions, Chronicle’s found footage format acts as an excuse to not resolve a number of plot points.
But despite all of these things, Chronicle finds ways to be entertaining. It is fun to watch the teens come to terms with what they can do and observe some of the creative ways they use their powers. It is just hard not to think that it could have been a better film without all of its gimmicks and with some better writing.
The single-disc DVD release for Chronicle is one of the most barebones collections viewers will find, outside of a disc that only features “interactive menus.” It includes a short pre-visualization compilation of footage, and another short camera test featurette, both of which offer little of interest. It also contains the theatrical trailer for the film and, yes, information on purchasing the soundtrack. It is a rather dull release when it could have been a lot more fun to see more on how this film came to be.
For more info, foxmovies.com
Pads & Panels received a press screening copy of the DVD courtesy of the studio for review purposes.