Director Josh Trank‘s Chronicle is a crafty found-footage film that uses superhero elements like never before. It features acceptable performances by unfamiliar talent and it intricately switches up the camera angles, leaving you with a well filmed movie, but something that still leaves you wanting more from the talent.
Andrew (Dane DeHaan), Matt (Alex Russell) and Steve (Michael B. Jordan) are three high school friends that stumble upon something extraordinary.
Andrew is the shy and quiet one of the bunch that decides to video tape everything in his life after getting sick of his drunken dad beating on him. His mother is extremely ill and probably going to die soon and he doesn’t have any friends.
His cousin Matt allows him to stick with him, despite frequently showing how annoyed Andrew makes him feel. Matt is a little more popular, but still kind of an airhead. He has a thing for a girl in school and he’s constantly trying to impress her with deep thoughts and feelings.
Steve is the popular one that plans on becoming president one day, but he’s still a genuinely nice guy.
All three come together at a typical party and discover “something”. They’re instantly given some sort of superhero-like strength that grows stronger the more they use it. They can now fly; stop objects mid-air and move whatever they want with their minds. It’s insanely dangerous stuff, especially in the hands of three high-schoolers.
Chronicle documents the events that follow and it primarily is seen through the eyes of Andrew.
Josh Trank directs Chronicle with a particular style that works well within the limits of the found-footage genre. He knows what we don’t like about these kind of films, so he quickly finds way around these loopholes. He uses every camera in the movie to tell the story, so scenes feel fresh by changing angles from cellphones to home video cameras. He’s also able to toy with the definition of the video, by using low-grade quality cameras and eventually upgrading to brand-new high definition equipment.
Everything exists within the world of Chronicle and that is also where the film struggles. Andrew is the core character that we’re supposed to feel for, yet his turn into the bad guy comes quickly and without enough emotional attachment. You see him get in fights with his abusive father and you see him explain how happy he is to his dying mother when he finally meets friends, but none of that feels like a good enough excuse to get behind him when he starts slaying innocent people on the street.
The turning point of the film happens at a party (much like when they find their powers), but this time it comes in the form of fame and popularity. Andrew is now in with the cool kids and right when things are at there best something embarrassing happens and he completely loses it.
This scene brings the movie down and makes the film feel uneven and poorly structured. Trank keeps Chronicle moving at a respectable pace by bringing more clever camera shots into the film and keeping the focus on Andrew, but it leads to nowhere and ends on an upbeat note that sells everything too short.
None of the three stars are all that convincing, with Dane DeHaan‘s Andrew coming off a little too strong. He starts out like a kid that you’d feel for, but he quickly becomes a bigger asshole than Matt and Steve combined. It makes his whole character feel severely underdeveloped and rushed.
Chronicle is a creative movie that successfully blends two very popular genres (found-footage and superhero), but in doing so it sacrifices what makes a good film good; a well-written story. You can fancy up a film all you want, but in the end it all comes down to the writing and the director’s ability to deliver.
Chronicle‘s 1080p video transfer struggles to find definition at first, but quickly maintains a balanced variety of colors. The different cameras used in the film are noticeable as Chronicle slowly starts to look like a film shot normally and not so much like a hand-held documentary. Skin tones are natural and light, while the bright lights of the city help make the transfer pop.
The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track has some excellent design. There’s a lot of activity on the back channels as the characters discuss stuff up front. Things like the radio, rain, party music and basically anything that would be happening in the background can be heard, which makes the film a real treat to listen to whenever the characters are out in the open stirring up trouble and testing their powers.
The disc comes with a short batch of special features. Here’s a full list below:
- Theatrical & Unrated Extended Cut of the film
- Deleted Scene (HD): A quick scene featuring Matt making breakfast for Casey.
- Pre-Viz (SD): A pre-visualization of some of the CGI scenes.
- Camera Test (HD): A test run of some of the diner scenes.
- Sneak Peak (HD): A look at upcoming Fox titles.
- Theatrical Trailer (HD)
- DVD Copy
- Digital Copy
Chronicle isn’t something that should be skipped over, because Josh Trank does manage to direct a found-footage film that never really falls into the genre’s weaknesses, but he also struggles at making the story as interesting as the concept. When I watched Chronicle in theaters I was disappointed, but watching it again at home on Blu-Ray I simply found it to be an okay film that isn’t worth a full admission ticket, but definitely worth a rental at home.
The Blu-Ray captures the look of the film perfectly and it sounds damn good. The complexity of the audio track is quality that I wasn’t expecting or even hoping for. The special features are short and basically stuff you’d breeze through quickly, which holds the package back from being a purchase.
This review is based on a copy of the Blu-Ray that we received for reviewing purposes.
Chronicle is an experimental film that works for the most part, but never manages to fully become something truly amazing or great. It's a decent film, with decent performances, great CG and excellent camera work.