Director: Josh Trank. Starring: Dane DeHaan, Alex Russell, Michael B. Jordan, Michael Kelly, Ashley Hinshaw. Budget: $12 mln. USA, 2012. IMDb: 7.1. My rating: 2/4. Sci-fi thriller about great power and zero responsibility.
– Apex predator…
– I’m an apex predator!
(the teens are over-estimating their competence)
– Wow, look, a rave.
– Oh, wow, look. A nerd with a camera.
(nerds are trying to be cool)
”…the actors screaming occasionally only made things worse.”
”The worst film I have seen in ages. Spectacularly annoying idiots yelling at each other.”
”Enjoy trolling? Enjoy watching people get trolled? Here’s your movie. For the average Joe, this will be an enjoyable movie. For the superhero fan, this could be a cult classic”
”It was intense and dark. SEE THIS MOVIE everybody. I saw this thinking it was going to be awesome. But I was wrong. It was 10 times better than I expected. My new favorite movie.”
“Chronicle” was made in the wake of a huge success of superhero movies and is kind of an alternative view on superheroes. Other notable examples were “Defendor” (which surprisingly had incredible emotional depth provided by Woody Harrelson), “Super” (ultra-violent but touching superhero parody in Troma style with an amazing Rainn Wilson) and “Kick-Ass“, but these 3 wonderful flicks were all made in a more humourous vein. “Chronicle” is dark, realistic (as far a movie about superpowers can be considered realistic) and feels different both from Marvel/DC stuff or a big array of a more independent production like ”Dredd”, ”Watchmen”, and other R rated stuff. In a nutshell, it’s just a movie about a bunch of normal teens that have no idea what to do with their powers.
Dane DeHaan, with his permanent ”oh-I-just-finished-a-3-day-bender-and-do-not-intend-to-stop” face expression should play serial murderers and psychos, not galaxy saviors or troubled teens that we should feel pity for.
What I liked. So what makes it different? Few things. Firstly, it’s a found footage film. For those who have seen too much of this gimmick I can assure you that this is probably one of the most effective found footage films ever – and I’m not a huge fan of this style. I don’t like shaky camera. The style is creative and transforms during the film though, making the camera an extra protagonist of the movie. Some people hated it, but I found it a cool feature that not so many movies include.
Here’s a highlight from interview with Trank by Collider: ”When first pitching Chronicle made up a director’s manifesto for the film. In which one of the main points of contention stated that the film should not give into the stigma of “the shaky POV”. “Everyone has one friend who can handle a camera,” said Trank – so cinematically speaking, Chronicle’s found footage should appear professional. Trank noted the cinematography of Werner Herzog’s Grizzly Man as an example of a real found footage film, with beautiful (non frantic) cinematography. Just because Chronicle’s a found footage film, doesn’t mean the footage has to look amateurish.”
Secondly, it’s a directional debut. Wiki says that ”with Chronicle released at the age of 27, Josh Trank became the youngest director to open a film at number one at the US box office”. Later Trank went to direct a disastrous (for a multitude of reasons though) ”Fantastic Four” movie which slowed down his career (before the release of ”FF”, Trunk was one of possible candidates for a stand-alone Star Wars film…). Of course, it’s not like I particularly care about that (there were dozens of better movie debuts), but following the box office results may provide a good insight into cinema and the modern audience.
The plot. Three ordinary teens gain superpowers due to incredible discovery… somewhere underground in a deep hole. As they learn to control and develop their new abilities, their lives start to go out of conrol.
The production. Like the awesome “Dredd” (2012, not with Stallone) and some other recent movies, the movie was shot in South Africa in 18 weeks. The found footage technique wasn’t how the movie was originally shot – everything was done in the post-production.
What I didn’t like. Now… the harsh part. Maybe you noticed that I haven’t said anything up to this point whether it’s actually a good movie. Original – yes, to a certain extent. Well shot and directed – yes, absolutely, Trank and the production team did an awesome job. But finally, movies like that are about people. It’s the characters that we care most about (or don’t). And here lies the problem.
The characters are unlikable. Extremely unlikable. And of all three guys, it’s exactly Andrew, the central movie’s character played by Dane DeHaan, who makes us feel something between pity and disgust. Most time, disgust. Other guys, Matt (Alex Russell) and Steve (Michael B. Jordan) were more attractive human beings, but still.
So as long as the ”Chronicle” concentrates on the special effects which are very cool, the new superpowers of the characters and how they develop them, it may be a lot of fun. This part feels rather energetic and original. The guys do some silly stuff that is shot very well thanks to the well used found footage technique. Till here, the film works fine as it’s well shown how from innocent jokes one pass to abuse and bullying.
But because somebody decided to make it a drama (there must be a reason why ”Defendor, ”Super” and ”Kick-Ass” have so much humour in their blood), things start to fall apart and be so vomitably predictable. Andrew’s background now dominates the story, the guys don’t know how to control their superpowers – c’mon, that wasn’t an unexpected turn, that was obvious from the trailer and even poster. It feels like the characters start to be psychotic just because it was written in the script ”you-need-to-be-a-psycho-just because-you-need-to-be-a-psycho”. That sucks.
I don’t know if that is a coincidence, but Max Landis, who did the screenplay, is a big fan of comics and pro wrestling. That’s everything that Chronicle should not be. At least, that’s how I felt when watching the last third of the movie – a bad pro wrestling show when everything is planned and predistable. The teens will probably like it, but a mature and adult viewer…nah!
Worth watching? Decide by yourself. The movie has a lot to offer – a curious take on the genre, rather effective found footage gimmick, special effects… But as soon as ”Chronicle” tries to become a serious drama, it
fails smashes itself down from a skyscraper and slowly bleeds on the ground. It’s a cool approach to superheroes, but a very bad drama. If you don’t take the things too seriously, have a look at it. Otherwise, there are much better dramas and superhero movies around. Or even both at the same time.
2/4 (1/4 for the last part and 3/4 for the first part).
P. S. Here’s a hilarious parody trailer that in 3 minutes highlights all the movie’s problems: