February 8, 2012 by Vinnie Leduc
With the success of found footage films like Cloverfield, Quarantine, and Paranormal Activity 3, it was only a matter of time before one of the hottest genres right now, the superhero movie, got the handheld camera treatment. Following a trio of high school students who develop newly found powers, Chronicle goes beyond the typical teenage tale of discovery, popularity, and identification. It’s a short but effective ride that doesn’t simply capitalize on the novelty of its handheld narrative.
Chronicle is the feature film debut of writer Max Landis and director Josh Trank, who at age 27 became one of the youngest directors ever to have his film debut atop the domestic box office. Beating elite company like Steven Spielberg (who was 28 when Jaws surfaced) and James Cameron (who was 30 when The Terminator arrived), Trank is sure to be on Hollywood’s radar in the foreseeable future.
But I gotta give credit to his young cast, especially Dane DeHaan, who would’ve been a perfect casting choice for pubertal Anakin Skywalker in the Star Wars prequel trilogy last decade. In order to get viewers to empathize with DeHaan’s pivotal and tragic character, Trank and Landis do a fine job establishing the troubled background behind his socially awkward, reclusive, and angst-ridden pariah.
While not technically impressive or extraordinarily breakthrough or anything, the special effects are still very interesting to watch, but this may be more of a reflection of the raconteurs’ storytelling skills. Not only do they set up Chronicle well, but Trank and Landis keep audiences engaged throughout by providing a credible account of what teens might do upon discovering superpowers. My only gripe was…
Why didn’t Andrew just fly to wherever his mom’s pills were and steal them? My only explanation is that what actually happened made for better Hollywood of course and perhaps underlined how his rage clouded his decision-making.
The blend of humor, vengeance, and abuse is reminiscent of the opening half of Sam Raimi’s and Tobey Maguire’s first Spider-Man. The battle in Seattle finale, unfortunately a bit spoiled in the trailer, was satisfying overall, even if the found footage aspect of the film was seemingly discarded or disregarded by then. Unlike previous recent disappointments in the blooming genre (Paranormal Activity 3, The Devil Inside, Apollo 18), the sci-fi flick Chronicle is a found footage film that works well and stands out amongst its peers. And if you’re one of those weaker-stomached moviegoers who can’t stand handheld camera films, you’ll be happy to know that the nauseating shakiness is kept to a minimum in this one. Chronicle gets 3.5 out of 5 stars or B or Good.