“Not all heroes are super.”
Director: Josh Trank
Cast: Dane DeHaan, Alex Russell, Michael B. Jordan
Synopsis: Whilst attending a party, three high school friends gain superpowers after making an incredible discovery underground. Soon, though, they find their lives spinning out of control and their bond tested as they embrace their darker sides.
First-time feature director Josh Trank’s Chronicle, an unexpectedly major hit at the box office, shrewdly mines a number of sub-genres in its attempt to appeal to as wide an audience as possible. The movie appeals first of all to anyone who’s ever wished they possessed the kind of superpowers that would enable them to expose that cute unattainable cheerleader’s black panties, or give that school bully a taste of his own medicine; it also employs and refines the ‘found-footage’ sub-genre with a fair amount of success, before finally providing a straightforward good vs. (sort of) evil duel as a finale. Unfortunately, Max Landis’s screenplay jumps around like a hyperactive kid, barely skimming the surface of one intriguing idea before excitedly skipping on to the next.
Dane DeHaan plays Andrew Detmer, a typical high school loser. Bullied by his schoolmates and abused by his unemployed, alcoholic father, Andrew’s only friend is his cousin Matt (Alex Russell), a jock type who has the hots for Casey (Ashley Hinshaw), a fellow student who, like Andrew, has a habit of walking around with a video camera on her shoulder.
At a party one night, Andrew’s approached by Steve (Michael B. Jordan), the easy-going, popular kid who’s everything Andrew isn’t. Steve asks him to film what he and Matt have discovered in the middle of a field. It’s a hole in the ground from which strange noises are emanating, and upon investigation, the three boys discover some kind of strange glowing crystal (the origin of which is never explained). Pretty soon after this all three discover that they have developed superpowers, including telekinesis.
While Chronicle provides reasonable entertainment, it follows a story arc that is depressingly familiar – whenever three people develop some kind of unique power you can guarantee that one of them is going to die as a result, one is going to use the power responsibly and one is going to become some kind of egotistical monster who loses all sense of proportion. Without giving too much away about Chronicle’s plot, it’s not difficult to figure out which principal character is going to assume which of those roles. Although Chronicle has a brief (80 minute) running time, it seems to take forever for us to reach the moment of confrontation, but once things start going awry they do so with an unseemly haste. One moment our heroes are performing tricks with ping-pong balls for their classmates, the next they’re destroying downtown Seattle as they do battle with one another.
Although Chronicle can be classified as a found footage movie, it neatly sidesteps the confines of the sub-genre thanks to Andrew’s ability to control the camera with his mind, so that, unlike similar movies, he can play as large a part in the story as the other characters. Trank does quite frequently stray from the genre however, as if he’s forgotten that he needs someone within the film to be in control of what we’re seeing, and it’s a little unlikely that nobody notices an unmanned gravity-defying camera floating around as it records what’s going on. The SFX also aren’t up to what moviegoers have come to expect these days, no doubt the result of a miniscule budget which perhaps allows us to cut Trank a little slack in this department. The effects aren’t tragically bad – but sometimes they barely reach the standard of, say, the 1978 Superman movie.
Chronicle is a decent attempt from a talented writer and director who shows promise for the future. It also breathes new life into the increasingly stale ’found footage’ sub genre. And while it’s not going to rock anybody’s world, it will at least keep them entertained for a while.