The “found-footage” film style has been popular in horror films for a while now. Flicks like The Blair Witch Project and Cloverfield sparked off a trend amongst amateur filmmakers; slapping together poorly shot shaky-cam footage to faux-documentaries. Chronicle, endowed with some of the best small-budget special effects, carefully takes on the “found-footage” style and cleverly imposes it into a superhero movie. The result is an ambitious half-breed movie that falls under both umbrellas. Even with a small and unknown cast it manages to surpass some of the bigger name productions out this year.
The superhero genre has left many fans jaded lately. Chronicle, like Kick-Ass before it, arrives at the perfect time, just as the majority of the group have become stale and repetitive. The film, which was shot in Cape Town, believe it or not, is surprisingly intelligent, well-acted and fresh. It’s a teen outcast story at heart but draws upon many elements of science-fiction.
Chronicle asks the question, “What would happen if three ordinary teens suddenly possessed superpowers?” Director Josh Trank and writer Max Landis (Son of John Landis) imagine that they would levitate stuff, crush heavy objects and even learn to fly.
The plot, which doesn’t draw on comic-book heritage, follows Andrew, Matt, and Steve, three typical high school students, who form a close bond after developing telekinetic abilities from an unknown object. Although the three first use their abilities for mischief, Andrew starts to use them for darker purposes. Unlike the other two boys, Andrew comes from a broken home, his alcoholic dad abusive and his mom slowly dying. Most of the footage is documented by Andrew who feels hurt and rejected by society.
While most critics found the “lost footage” element a bit annoying, I felt it added to the story. It brought us a little closer to the world of the boys. It feels like we are right there when they first discover their powers and abilities. It feels like we are right there every time Andrew’s father beats him. It feels like we are right there every time things go horribly wrong. Inevitably the question is still raised, though, “Why are they still filming when so many things are going wrong?” Any rational person would switch off the camera in the middle of a disaster. While the film offers no logical answer the director does cleverly manage to switch cameras here and there, jumping to another camera, cell phone footage, iPad footage, and even security cam footage.
Everything ultimately builds to an action climax that most would agree recalls Superman II. But it’s here that most of Chronicle fumbles, unfortunately. Everything just feels rushed and chaotic in the finale. Thankfully, the first few minutes are put together so well that you won’t feel completely cheated by the ending.
This is well worth the watch. Comic book fans take note!