by A. Journey
2012 Found Footage/Superhero, Dir. Josh Trank
Three very different high school students come to discover they share a unique ability after having an unforgettable encounter. The film chronicles the trio’s school and personal lives as they begin to develop and control these powers.
Why I saw it?
If you’ve kept up with the blog, Chronicle probably looks like it was made for me. I have a soft spot for found footage films (like Paranormal Activity and the highly underrated Cloverfield), and I’m a big superhero nut.
It begins like most found footage films; it’s slow, lulling the audience into a false sense of normalcy before things abruptly change. We get to know the cast of characters in their daily lives, especially our main character, who starts out behind the camera. When things shift, and the characters discover their powers, things really start to amp up. Because of the found footage aspect of the film (and because the character interactions feel so spontaneous and natural), Chronicle is the most unique and realistic take on the superhero genre that I have ever seen. After many recent big budget duds in the superhero world (I’m looking at you, Green Lantern), Chronicle proposes a new kind of superhero film, one that focuses more on characters and keeping the audience invested and less on expensive eye candy and a hollow story.
–Found Footage. You might be tired of the style, but this might be the best use of it. It’s not just found footage from one camera, but the film pieces together its story from multiple real-life camera vantage points, so there is quite a bit of variety. As with many of these types of films, the characters seem so much more real and defined than in a traditionally shot film, and for a superhero movie, that is a major plus.
-Villain. Most movies in the genre either have way too many villains or the main villain is just an afterthought. Not here. I don’t want to get too spoilery, but the villain slowly develops as the film goes on, so slowly in fact that you forget that this person is who everyone else in the movie perceives to be the bad guy. While the villain’s backstory itself isn’t incredibly original, the way it is told and presented is completely fresh.
-Slow burn with punctuation. A problem with found footage movies is that they must slowly and methodically set up an entire world so that the more fantastic elements are more effective. Chronicle moves at a pretty deliberate pace, but even when there aren’t big action moments and the plot sort of meanders, I never felt bored. Scenes at a toy store and a high school bash don’t do a whole lot on their own, but they add to the environment the film is building. And of course when the film does decide to unleash, it’s quite powerful (pun intended).
-The Trio. The film’s trio of characters (Dane DeHaan, Alex Russell, and Friday Night Light‘s Michael B. Jordan) sell the movie. It’s fun to watch them develop their skills, and they all contrast each other so well. I’m looking forward to what these actors do next.
–Flying. This was my favorite part of the film. If you’ve ever wondered what it might be like to fly, you need to see this movie just for this scene. As our trio develops their abilities, they discover they can fly, and they take the camera to the sky, goofing off with their new found skill. They bundle up in their biggest coats and zoom up through the clouds, racing each other, playing football in midair; it’s exciting and I’ve never felt that sense of awe when watching a superhero film before. It was quite something, and I probably could have watched a whole film of just them flying.
What Doesn’t Work
-Found Footage. Even though it adds a lot to the movie, at times, it just feels forced and I couldn’t fully let myself go as I was watching the film, because I constantly kept thinking about how they were approaching the form. At many points, I was wondering why what I was seeing was being filmed, and when the characters made obligatory comments about the camera, I cringed a little. Sometimes I even wanted to see how the film would play without the found footage constraints. I don’t think it would have been as good, and I’m glad Chronicle did explore “found footage” (and to great success), but I’m wondering how much further this new sub-genre can go.
If you like superheroes, I don’t see how you can watch this movie and not be taken, or at least impressed with it. I think this might even convince some people who are put off by the whole “found footage” gimmick that has swept low-budget films in recent years. Chronicle is the most realistic take on superheroes I have ever experienced, in any form of media whatsoever, and it is just about the coolest, most unique entry in the film genre I’ve seen, too. Please go see it.