I will start this review off by saying I have been a huge fan of super heroes and their films. So when I heard about a film, with an original idea about regular people developing super powers and what they do with them, I was very much intrigued. Having now seen the results I was pleasantly satisfied. Once again, the rising beast that is “the found footage,” film rears its head, as it attempts to claim another genre. Surprisingly, it is quite successful where others in this type of film have failed.
The story itself is nothing new, 3 teenage friends come across what is believed to be some sort of extraterrestrial “thing” and start to develop the power to move things with their minds. Hijinx ensue as the 3 learn to harness their power. At the same time we begin to see two diverging paths forming; the good path and the dark side. All of this leads to a final climax that does not disappoint.
The three main characters played by unknowns Dane DeHaan, Michael B. Jordan, and Alex Russell, successfully act out what it means to be teenagers and to develop a super power. They are also the first step in what makes this a stand out in the world of “found footage.” The movie manages to show real characters that the audience can relate to. The most successful of the three, and the one that starts the filming, is Dane DeHaan as the main character Andrew. Andrew clearly goes thru the largest range of emotions as he develops from a quiet outcast of teenage society, to accepted friend, (spoiler alert if you haven’t seen any trailers) to the misunderstood villain with too much power, unaware of what to do with it.
The second part that makes this film so successful is the effects. It is quite impressive to see what the creators of this film where able to pull off with a budget of only $15 million. Only a few times throughout the film did I find myself thinking, “that doesn’t look completely real.” Considering what they are able to pull off with such a small budget, it really starts to make you wonder what all the other big budget super hero movies are spending their money on.
Finally, and what I think is most important of why this film succeeds where other “found footage” films fail, is that this film is a complete story. If anyone has seen The Blair Witch Project or Cloverfield then they will know the idea of the “found footage” film is that the footage has been found. It implies that the footage shot was not meant to be seen as a blockbuster film, but rather home videos for personal use. At some point the camera is lost and it just ends with no conclusion. This set up, in my personal opinion, leads these films to their biggest problem, they don’t have a structured story line. They tend to just begin, things happen, then everything just stops and they never really feel like a complete story. Chronicle manages to break this structure by having three clear points within the story. It has a beginning where it introduces everyone, it has a middle that builds to a climax and it has an end, while still managing the lost and found ending of “found footage” films. Also, the reason why these films tend to be in the horror category is because, you end up being your own main character in the film. You experience what is happing through the eyes of the camera or cameras used in the film. you are experiencing it with them and if you’re like me, I would rather the other guy I just met get eaten by the large monster and not me. “Chronicle” finds a very clever way to take the camera operator out from behind the camera and give them a personality instead of just our means of being in the story. When someone talks to the camera, it gives a feeling of breaking the fourth wall, instead of talking to the person behind the camera. Towards the end, the film manages to almost remove the idea that the only reason we are seeing the film is because someone needs to be there to film it. The invisible person behind the camera doesn’t need to be there, we just experience the event like if it were a regular movie.
Overall, Chronicle is a great original take on the super hero genre. With a solid story and likable characters, it makes me look forward to more. It also makes me hopeful to see what debut director Josh Trank might do in the future. Fans of super hero films or “found footage” will enjoy this.