Three high school friends gain superpowers after making an incredible discovery. Soon, though, they find their lives spinning out of control and their bond tested as they embrace their darker sides.
Found footage style cam has gotten inventive. “Chronicle” is the latest in this style that while using the trademark “carry-a-camera-around” look and feel is actually a bigger budget extravaganza. “Chronicle” manages to instill a sense of super heroism, action, and scifi into a rather unique kind of film. Yep, it’s even got a dark overtone that kind of reminded me of those super villain comic book stories I read as a kid. The ones where the suddenly empowered kid begins to lose track of his abilities becoming more of a menace than an aid.
“Chronicle” is built around the relationship of 3 high school friends. We have Michael B. Jordan as Steve Montgomery, the obvious Obama in training who spends most of the film promoting himself in an attempt to become class president. We have Matt Garetty (Alex Russell), a high school jock who has suddenly grown up in his look on life focusing more on building relationships and recognizing his future. Then we have Andrew Detmer (Dane DeHaan), the nerdy kid who lacks a girlfriend, ambition, and ability to fit in with the cool kids.
Andrew is our super villain. He also has made the choice to suddenly film his life and everything around him. This action which has been used before in other cam films is always weird in concept but works for the film direction itself. Although I really enjoyed the film, I thought it still would have worked without the found footage approach. But hey, that’s what consumers seem to be digging these days. The basis for someone holding a camera at times was a bit convoluted, but in retrospect…well, who cares, right?
The 3 of them discover a meteor hole one night while attending a high school rave get together. As they enter the hole they come into contact with “something” that unknown to them transforms their molecular abilities giving them the power of extreme telekinesis. The ability begins weak but escalates as the film progresses. The 3 grow close in their common bond and soon are fooling about with their new found internal toy. It’s not long before they discover the power of flight and head into the stratosphere like a group of rookie X-men.
Their powers increase as Andrew develops into the strongest of the 3. Laying a foundation for Andrew’s home life is the stressful backdrop of a sick mother and abusive father (Michael Kelly).
High school was hell for Andrew until his powers make him popular over night. It “appears” that things are turning out for the better. However circumstances change creating more of a monster out of Andrew who becomes drunk with power. His friends who are also able to command this ability do what they can to contain Andrew’s growing rage. Things get out of control.
We’ve seen this kind of thing happen in the past with films like “Carrie” and “Powder”. I think the idea itself is what makes this special, imagining how real teens would take to this same level of sudden ability. For that alone, it feels genuine and special. I especially liked how they toy about with their telekinesis before it becomes dangerous.
What really works for this film is that the level of special effects are top notch. The footage itself makes things seem common which enhances the FX when seen thru a rough camera eye. I got a similar experience in the film “Troll Hunter”, that also blends its style seamlessly.
The movie is directed by Josh Trank and shot in the UK. Regardless it “feels” very American made with a great premise that unfolds in an interesting way. The 3rd act features some incredible shots which is no wonder looking at the huge FX credits list that comes with the film. This is not your typical superhero film, but it follows in the tradition of Hollywood blockbusters productions. I was pleasantly blown away even if cam footage has become a bit tired. Viewers will really enjoy the exciting confrontations that escalate in this surprise sci-fi thriller.
Chronicle is available May 15 on bluray per 20th Century Fox