Rating: 4 stars out of 5
The Cast: Dave DeHaan, Alex Russell, Michael B. Jordan
The Buzz: We've seen the found footage film being done in the genres of horror and sci-fi before, but “Chronicle” brings it to a new zone; the Superhero origin story. Written by Max Landis... does that surname sound familiar? Of course it does, he's the son of John Landis, the director of Michael Jackson's world famous “Thriller” video.
The Story: What would you do if you had superpowers? Start fighting crime on the street or play elaborate pranks on innocent bystanders with your new found glory? The latter's exactly what happens in "Chronicle" to a group of teens, Andrew, Matt and Steve. Andrew, the loner, follows his cousin Matt and popular kid Steve into a cave, only to emerge out of it with amazing new powers. Their discovery of their powers spins their lives out of control, as Andrew starts using his powers irresponsibly.
inSing.com thinks: At the very core of the movie, "Chronicle" is just like another superhero movie like "Spider-Man” or “Superman”. However, there are no explanations on radioactive spiders, cosmic rays or Krypton... just a visit to a strange cave and subsequent flying abilities and all sorts of fantastical powers granted to these young men. So basically, it's a superhero movie, but stripped down to its core and presented in a street wise urban kid in high school manner with a slightly creepy main character filming most of it on his camcorder.
“Chronicle” manages to capture the fun of having a superpower quite wonderfully. The joy and fun of able to fly and levitate objects is captured quite palpably by newbie director Josh Trank. Instead of rushing to beat up bad guys in the name of justice, they're stuck with levitating lego blocks in their own privacy, torn between using it for their own gain and keeping a low profile in order to avoid scrutiny.
In what seems to be an ode to Captain America's super soldier serum, the three kids' personalities seem to expand twofold when they gain their powers. The two that seem to have their heads screwed on right, the popular kids in school, Matt and Steve handle their new powers with maturity, while Andrew's fears and insecurities get magnified and lead to his subsequent abuse of his powers, something that worries the hell out of his cousin and friend.
Sounds rather straight forward? It is. Thankfully, the subplots involving Andrew and his family/social life lend some much needed dimension to him and provides some characterization that makes his regression motivated and a little tragic (as well as making him a wee bit more tolerable).
The film's commitment to the “found footage” format is admirable and gives the film a grittier and a more up close and personal feel as compared to the movies of the larger than life counterparts of Marvel and DC, and when that is combined with the high school setting makes for a pretty fun counterpoint to the usual superhero fare. It's also a lot more fun than most other found footage films, mainly because of those films have been ones in the horror genre, so “Chronicle” has that going for it.
All in all, “Chronicle” is one of the year's early surprises, a fresh take on two genres that have been done to death recently and a very entertaining one at that.