PhotobucketHigh school student Andrew is bullied at home by his alcoholic father and bullied at school by his classmates. A social outcast, he finds solace in filmmaking by documenting everything in his life with his handheld camera. Then one day, Andrew along with his cousin Matt and popular classmate Steve, discover a mysterious glowing crystal down a crater in the earth. As a result, the three of them gain supernatural powers.

Ultra low budget feature uses Andrew’s own amateur video to present his life. Ordinarily this might have afforded a very limited point of view, but the script has allowed Andrew’s ability to levitate the camera to cleverly incorporate normally impossible shots. “Found footage” is also creatively included from other sources. These are all seamlessly stitched together to produce a full and complete movie. At first it feels like a gimmick in these circumstances. The method isn’t particularly fresh anymore. However it’s usually employed in a horror context. Chronicle’s science fiction roots are a unique genre for the method. It also allows the filmmakers the discretion to not depict certain scenes (i.e. Andrew’s failed intimacy with the girl at the party) that are more poetic when we rely on our imagination. Ultimately, I think it provides a fascinating perspective inside the mind of a protagonist that undergoes a subversive personality shift.

What sets this fantasy apart are well-rounded and complex teens. Andrew is a socially awkward, but sympathetic character at the outset. The development of his character is rather involving. Also notable is the relationship between his respected cousin Matt and charismatic friend Steve, running for class president. In spite of Andrew’s lack of social status, they share a genuine friendship, united by the bond of the magical powers they receive. When Steve convinces Andrew to use his newfound skills in the high school talent show, Steve’s desire to help is emotionally affecting. It makes Andrew’s actions toward him a bit harder to accept later. Andrew becomes a most supremely disgruntled young man. Certain behaviors, borne out of frustration, are understandable: robbing a convenience store so he can pay the pharmacist to fulfill his mother’s prescription. (Although wouldn’t carefully lifting people’s wallets from afar been less confrontational?) Other times his emotional angst has all the sincerity of a line reading on a soap opera audition.

Chronicle is 2/3 of a really satisfying drama. What starts out as a thoroughly engaging setup devolves into your standard supervillain run amok at the end. The collection of adventures leading up to Andrew’s admittance to a hospital in the final act are invariably entertaining. I appreciated the joy of discovery the three boys had getting used to their newly acquired abilities. The script has a sense of humor. When they purposefully move a woman’s car in a parking lot as a practical joke, it’s utterly indicative of what real high schoolers would initially do with their powers. The story exhibits a legitimate ambition to cultivate three-dimensional characters with bona fide emotion. That’s what makes the eventual devolution of the narrative so depressing. A story about a telekinetic teen outcast with an unsupportive parent, bears more than a passing resemblance to Stephen King’s Carrie. Both teens unleash untold mayhem as revenge against their enemies. That was a characteristic weakness in both as well. Despite the familiarity of the plot, Chronicle is still justifiably worth your time based on the character development of its three main stars. A solid debut from 27 year old Josh Trank, a young director to watch.

8 Responses to “Chronicle”

  1. If this film was released as an independent drama with a supernatural element to it, I would be more inclined to agree with all of this, but as it is a studio film (however inexpensive it may have been), I have to say that I really enjoyed the siege into action as much as the initial setup, and found the ‘popcorn entertainment’ aspect to be just as satisfying and well thought out to create a larger scope for this film then would would imagine. Chronicle certainly isn’t flawless, but for a big studio release, I think it managed to do a lot very well.


    • Agreed it did a lot well. I’m not sure whether a movie is an independent or a big budget release makes a difference to me. I just found the resolution not quite as inspired as what came before. What can I say? The filmmakers raised the bar in the beginning.


  2. Maybe I’m just more impressed with the fact that Fox was able to swoop in and make an Akira movie, under WB’s big budget nose, and distance itself enough to have it work and make an eventual live action Akira unnecessary.


  3. I enjoyed it. First half was very realistic and creative. Second half, I’ve seen before, many times. Over all, it was very entertaing. Thumbs up.


  4. Your review hit me by surprise. On Flixster, before you had reviewed this, you had marked “not interested” for Chronicle, so I didn’t expect you to review this so soon (or even at all). I wasn’t interested either, since the trailers made it look a bit dumb (surprised by Ebert’s review, especially). So since you only gave it three stars, I’ll just bag it.


  5. I really enjoyed this one and I’m glad you gave it a largely positive review. Someone who I work with thought this was an incredibly boring film, I wasn’t bored once!

    The found footage angle is difficult to maintain and although it is a little contrived in parts, it’s not as forced as others in the same genre.

    I’ve heard so many people compare it to Akira so it’s interesting this film is mentioned in the comments. I’ve not seen Akira, even though I really must, but as it’s been so associated with Chronicle I’m sure I’d love it also.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: