The trend continues as TV-turned-feature-film director Josh Trank makes his debut. Popular trends dictate direction sometimes and that’s no exception here for “Chronicle,” and its found-footage style. With characters that can fly it’s surprising Trank didn’t opt for the extra novelty of a third dimension, though it does have IMAX options. Fortunately, in this instance, the film works as a found-footage movie – almost. Unfortunately, a quick-to-DVD release may be what the doctor’s order for this, at the very maximum, entertaining film.
“Chronicle” is the story of three high schoolers – Andrew (Dane DeHaan), Matt (Alex Russell) and Steve (Michael B. Jordan) – who gain superpowers after making an incredible discovery in a mysterious hole in the ground. Soon the bonds of friendship are tested as Andrew begins to embrace his darker side.
Couple problems worth mentioning, 1) What did they get their superpowers from and why did it happen? 2) Who edits these found-footage films, especially when they’re created with multiple cameras? Both questions arise because there are lazy gaps in Max Landis’ screenplay. Sure, the first question is briefly touched upon at the end, but it comes off as a cheap way to say, “Okay, I don’t know how to end this film or explain the source of power so I’ll just end it like this, with this line.” It’s inexcusable and anyone who sees this film may leave sharing that exact sentiment.
The second question is a bit less important but just one of general curiosity. Regardless of who miraculously “found” and edited the footage, it’s not a novelty that works in all instances, however, for “Chronicle” it works and serves a positive purpose. This is one film where the “documentary” aspect feels genuine without causing feelings of nausea. And audiences may be surprised at the amount of long shots this film includes – especially during the climactic moments.
So let’s get down to the characters, Andrew (DeHaan) is a socially awkward, shy teenager whose father is an abusive alcoholic and whose mother lays dying in bed. Andrew and his family are plagued with real-world problems (he’s bullied, dad lost his job, mother is ill, no health insurance or money) – establishing him as the natural, easy choice for an antagonist. Matt (Russell) is Andrew’s ultra-likeable, social and outgoing cousin and Steve (Jordan) is the most popular student in school who’s running for Senior Class President.
Each character has a different outcome, Andrew becomes more outgoing, Matt is the stabilizer who remains unchanged and Steve becomes more socially estranged but still well-liked. Each of the actors do nice work transitioning their characters along the way and never fear, this isn’t necessarily a dense drama, there are plenty of good-time, funny moments and scenes that look like they could be pulled out of Punk’d or Jackass – and perhaps that’s the main problem, it feels a little made-for-television.
When the movie stops and lights come up you may be left feeling a little on the fence, some of it is good but some of it is questionable, and that’s somewhat forgivable from a relatively new director. But as a film, it does what it needs to, it’s entertaining – just not so much of the “must-see” sort.
Chronicle is rated PG-13 for action and intense violence, thematic material, some language, sexual content and teen drinking and runs 83 minutes.