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In Cinemas: Chronicle

Posted on the 24 February 2012 by Desertofreel @Kob_Monney

In Cinemas: Chronicle

There’s something wrong with Andrew.

Showing no signs of abating, the found-footage trend continues to find new ways to stay alive whether it’s ludicrously taking it the concept to the moon (Apollo 18), or dressing it up in a familiar guise (The Devil Inside). Chronicle looks to apply the same documentary/YouTube stylings – this time to the superhero genre – but the concept of found-footage in this film seems a little bogus.

That’s not to say that Chronicle doesn’t try to stretch the found-footage concept but it struggles to retain a sense of believability in its latter half. Chronicle starts off with social outcast Andrew (Dane Dehaan) buying a camcorder to record his life. Bullied at school and at home by his father (Michael Kelly), his home life is compounded by his mother’s severe illness. In an attempt to try and bring him out of his shell, Matt, his cousin and only friend (Alex Russell), takes him to a warehouse party where they run into popular high school student Steve (Michael B Jordan). They find a cave in the woods, come across a weird crystal object; vibrations shudder the walls, the cave starts collapse – fade to black.

They wake up realising they have superpowers, abilities that allow them manipulate their surroundings with their mind. Like most superhero origin stories they find out that their powers can be used for good as well as bad.

There’s a lot to like about Chronicle. While not strictly a found footage film (who edited this footage together?), the docu-like nature and low key setting helps to differentiate it from its more exuberant cousins. It feels real or at least as real as the concept allows it to be, and director Josh Trank does a good job meshing it with a recognisable reality. Thankfully he finds ways of avoiding the shaky cam aesthetic, opting for a camera suspended by Dehaan’s Andrew that glides gracefully across the room as if it’s in zero gravity.

The characters are well defined if a little clichéd: Andrew is emotionally stiff, pushing others away; Matt is the pretentious intellectual and Steve is the popular, charismatic type. Put them together and they make for an interesting combination, rubbing off on each other and forming a close bond. It’s when the shit hits the fan that Chronicle falters.

Chronicle’s faults stem from just how unsubtle and predictable its narrative and characters can be. It’s exemplified in Andrew’s dad: a dreadful father who has a go at his son at every opportunity; verbally and physically assaulting him on a consistent basis. Trank and screenwiter Max Landis are very unsubtle going big and broad (perhaps purposefully so). As a result it becomes rather obvious which direction the story and the characters are going in. Andrew’s brittle shoulders can’t support the misery inflicted upon him and he hits the self-destruct button, unleashing a tidal wave of anger.

Technically the film is both good and bad with some effects looking stunning (not bad for $12 million) and others looking shabby. The final confrontation has echoes of Akira but the staging of it is a little un-engaging; unless, that is, you like seeing characters being punched through a building repeatedly. It’s at this juncture where the found-footage novelty starts to fall apart with Trank struggling to find exciting angles and being able to retain the intimacy that was so necessary in the first half of the film.

Still Chronicle is a more than decent superhero film that’s a) original (ish); b) inventive and c) fresh enough until that third act. After Haywire and The Grey, the early months of the year keep rolling with surprisingly good films.


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