Twitter Plot Summary: After finding a strange glowing device underground, three teenagers gain super powers.
Director: Josh Trank
Key Cast: Dane DeHaan, Alex Russell, Michael B Jordan, Michael Kelly, Ashley Hinshaw, Anna Wood, Bo Petersen, Grant Powell
Five Point Summary:
1. Oh joy – found footage.
2. Flying. Oh yeah.
3. Guess who dies first? Yep, got it in one.
4. With great power comes yadda yadda yadda.
5. That’s no way to make your point…
Chronicle takes the superhero origin story in a slightly new direction, combining that story strand with the “found footage” genre that has been dying a slow, painful death since The Blair Witch Project in 1999. Suffice to say, the entire found footage conceit here is unnecessary and adds little to the story, but thankfully it manages to rise above this and turns into a pretty decent film. Our focus is on three friends – Andrew, Matt and Steve. After discovering a strange glowing object underground in the forest, they all start developing superhuman abilities – telekinesis, flight and so on. So far, so bog standard.
The script from Max Landis, son of John, is sufficiently zingy and captures the reality of how teens interact with one another. Throw in randomly acquired superpowers and there’s a disaster just waiting to happen. Specifically Dane DeHaan’s Andrew, an almost perma-sulk resides on his face as he’s bullied and looked down on by his contemporaries. It probably doesn’t help him much by carrying a professional-sized video camera around the place. Of the three characters he gets the most background detail – his dad is an alcoholic and his mum is terminally ill. By comparison Matt gets a love story with fellow camera addict Casey (funny how someone else just happens to be wandering around with a video camera…), whereas Steve has the least to do. Unfortunately he seems like the forgotten middle character of the trio, barely having opportunity to do much other than act as the middle guy between the two poles of Andrew and Matt. In more positive news, it’s quite a slow burn for the majority of the running time, seeing the trio learn how to control their powers and doing that teenage thing of creating freak gusts of wind so they can see up girl’s skirts, or playing catch up in the clouds after realising they had the power to levitate and fly.
It develops as the darker side of having incredible powers starts to assert itself in the second half. It’s not an unexpected turn towards darkness and it’s introduced gradually so as not to clash too severely with the fun and teenage banter of the opening hour. When the darkness does creep in, it’s yet another twist on the super villain concept, grounded as close as it can be to reality and is another aspect of the genre that’s been approached in a clever way.
It’s a fun twist on the traditional “origin story” superhero film and is perhaps a more accurate representation of how teenagers would actually act if they were gifted with superhuman abilities rather than the idealised portrayal of them as seen in just about every superhero movie ever made. If anything lets it down, it’s the found footage conceit. It really doesn’t help matters. By all means show the characters acting the way they do, but we don’t need it to be found footage. Still, as the first feature from Josh Trank, the first feature length script from Max Landis, and a breakout performance from Dane DeHaan, it’s an impressive piece of work.
Favourite scene: Playing catch up in the clouds…
Quote: “See, it’s different, ’cause you’ve always had friends, and people want to talk to you and be around you. I never had any of that. I mean, before this, I barely even hung out with Matt, and he’s my cousin. We were close when were little, but- I don’t know. In high school, everything changed.”
Silly Moment: Walking around with big semi-pro video cameras? Just make an ordinary superhero movie!