So, I’m sure you’ve heard of a little “found footage” superhero movie that just came out last week called Chronicle right? Tons of critics loved it. And so did the movie audiences as it was the #1 film in America. Want our thoughts? Keep on reading!
Three teenagers in Seattle discover a sinkhole in the woods near a high school party, and its mysterious contents give them telekinetic powers. At first their powers grant them the ability to move small objects with their minds--things like Legos and baseballs. And the more they use their abilities, the stronger they become. Soon these super kids can move cars with their mind, shield themselves from injury, and even fly. But for Andrew, Steve, and Matt, with great power comes no responsibility and even greater consequences when one of the teens succumbs to his darker impulses.
I’ll admit that after seeing the first trailer for Chronicle back in the fall last year, the concept of merging the found footage and superhero genres intrigued me. But what I ended up seeing was really a welcome surprise given the usual dearth of good movies in the first few months of the year.
First and foremost, Josh Trank has made a wonderful debut film here. He took a limited budget and made it look like a multi-million dollar flick (for most of the film).
Secondly, the actors made us give a crap about their journey and evolution. Dane DeHaan really sold the audience on the agony of his character Andrew, particularly in the early going as we see how miserable his life was dealing with social awkwardness and constant bullying at school. And then the poor kid had no respite at home as he had to contend with a mother dying of cancer and an alcoholic asshole of a father who beat the crap out of him whenever he needed to feel like a man.
Andrew was the person behind the camera for a majority of the movie, using it as a barrier between himself and thw orld. And as the audience gets a window into Andrew's life, one can see how much gaining the powers was a welcome release from the torment that was his existence.
Then there was Michael B. Jordan as Steve, the most popular kid in school and everyone’s friend. When Steve said he was going to do something, like someday becoming President of the United States, you believed him. I’ve liked this actor since seeing him on Friday Night Lights and Parenthood. His Steve was charismatic, motivated, fun-loving, and was usually the first to try out new things with his telekinetic abilities.
Then we had Alex Russell as Andrew’s cousin Matt Garetty. He did a decent job with what he was given, which was to be a typical high school kid who could be more if he tried harder. Matt cares for his awkward cousin and wants him to get out of his shell mor, but at the same time doesn’t want to be seen to much with him in public where it could hurt his social standing. Also, Russell did a really good job with an American accent as he is Australian.
After the trio gets their TK abilities, the close bond they form over testing out their abilities was believable and fun to watch. Especially when they first learn how to fly. That was one of the best scenes of the movie. Each of the actors really sold the exhilarating yet terrifying sensation of soaring through the air and what could go wrong if one is not paying attention what else is flying through the friendly skies!
We see in short order that Andrew is the most powerful of the three and using his powers comes more naturally, though Steve comes in at a close second due to him pushing his powers by way of amazing new feats (like the flying).
These early scenes of the three leads enjoying their powers are something that has been lacking in a number of big blockbuster superhero movies recently. I’m all for heading in a more mature, serious direction and all, but it's nice to showcase on film that having powers isn’t always a burden for every superpowered protagonist.
But seeing Andrew, Steve, and Matt bonding early on was what made the dark turn in Chronicle that much more impactful. As great as having powers is for Andrew, the amount of psychological damage he suffers from his father and the bullies at school does not decrease. Only now he has the means to fight back with gruesome results at times. And there is no parental figure in his life who taught him the tried and true mantra that Peter Parker lives by.
What didn’t work:
The 'found footage' angle works great in the beginning and middle of the movie when Andrew was the one chronicling both his life along with his, Matt and Steve's evolution. But toward the end of the film we witness an epic telekinetic brawl that rampages across downtown Seattle, and some of the angles and shots that are caught become a tad big preposterous, though the muted security camera shots of characters crashing through bank buildings was very inspired, as was the bafflement of the news reporters commentating on the floating people tossing cars and metro buses at each other.
Not only that, there was no indication of who patched together Andrew's footage with that of the news cameras and security footage.
Also, there were a few special effects shots that looked plain bad. But as those were few and far in between, I can overlook them.
In closing, I really dug Chronicle. It wasn’t perfect, but seeing that its Josh Trank’s debut film, I cannot wait to see what else he is capable of when he gains more experience. See it as soon as you can!