The first thing I noticed about Chronicle was that great poster. People flying around the Seattle skyline? Sweet. Then I found out it was a shaky cam movie about superpowers and I was more intrigued. I know a lot of people are getting tired of these “found footage” type movies but I still enjoy the technique even if it is a gimmick. Paranormal Activity, Cloverfield, The Last Exorcism, I enjoyed these movies because they took the surreal and attempted to portray it in a realistic way. Of course, the question always arises “Why don’t they put down the camera?” And I’d like to say that problem was solved in Chronicle (It wasn’t) but where it lacks in conceptual plot holes it makes up for in sheer entertainment value.
Andrew (Dane DeHaan) is lonely high schooler who starts to videotape his life on a new camera. Why does he do it? I don’t know, but if he didn’t then I guess we wouldn’t have a movie. Andrew is a shy and reclusive teen with an alcoholic father, a dying mother, and no social life. His only friend is his popular cousin Matt (Alex Russell) who is constantly trying to get Andrew to open up. One night, Matt convinces Andrew to go to a rave in a converted barn. At the party, they meet up with Matt’s friend Steve (Michael B. Jordan). Together the three stumble upon a secret cave where they discover some kind of meteor and BOOM superpowers.
Though at times I wondered if this movie really needed to be a shaky cam movie I think in retrospect it was the right choice. Something about seeing digital effects on a typical camcorder makes them that more impressive. The scenes where the characters “practice” their powers on unsuspecting bystanders are a real treat to watch and the battle scenes are impressive. A lot of people have criticized the last half of this film for being too action packed but I thought it found a good balance.
Something I like about Chronicle when compared to so many other films about teenagers is that it feels genuine. I could honestly believe these were real kids and this is how they would act and respond to this situation. As a matter of fact, I’ve noticed this about characters in a lot of shaky cam movies. Something about the “Home movie” style in these kinds of movies only brings out the best in their actors.
Based off what I said earlier, it might seem like a bit of a contradiction for me to say this movie being shaky cam is both a gift and a curse. It is a gift because of what the technique does for the effects and performances but a curse in that it doesn’t make any sense. These characters all filming each other all the time? This is a hard obstacle to ignore and it often sucked me right out of the film entirely. I liked Chronicle it was just a bit of a stretch with the concept… And I can only pray it doesn’t turn into a franchise which I think it could.