I’m waiting for the ‘found-footage’ fad to die out.  The format has been stretched so thin that Chronicle busies itself trying to bypass the roadblock of hopping around the perspectives of different cameras circling the action.  Since the filmmakers have bolder ambitions than shaking their cameras around, I still lost myself in this fresh superhero diversion.  The film’s young director, Josh Trank, is getting a lot of buzz for his first main feature here, and for a 26-year-old filmmaker, a lot of credit is actually due.

Even though I’m not the least bit interested in the visual style, the story of Chronicle nudged me into the theater.  The film opens with high school teen Andrew Detmer (Dane DeHaan), a loner outcast locked in his bedroom with his video camera while his drunken father pounds on the door with thunderous shouts at the boy.  His father is a laid off firefighter.  His mother is bed-ridden and dying from a serious medical condition.  If Andrew has anyone on his side, it’s his cousin, Matt (Alex Russell), who invites him to a party one night, despite serious objections to Andrew toting his video camera around.

Andrew has decided he wants to document his daily life on film, which is hard to imagine considering his abusive treatment at home and uninteresting social life at school.  Apparently it gives him a time-occupying outlet.  At the rave party, Matt and his friend Steve (Michael B. Jordan) find Andrew and request he follow them into the woods to check out a sizable hole in the ground.  Andrew’s light on his camera could help them out.  With their ears pressed to the ground, the trio hear a bass-thumping rumble coming from the hole, so they naturally decide to make a descent inside to discover what’s lurking underneath.  As they wander their way down, they stumble upon… well, something—not of this world.  It appears large, glowing, crystallized, with an alien entity inside.  The video feed flickers.  Something is happening to the boys and their noses begin to bleed heavily.

The next we see of them, their not fully aware of how they got out of the ground.  Oh, and they have telekinetic powers.  The guys starting tossing baseballs around with their minds and constructing Lego buildings.  Their abilities increase as they ‘stretch the muscle’ of their power, pulling pranks on helpless shoppers, moving parked cars across parking lots, and delivering the ultimate magic act at their school talent show.  Once the boys learn they can fly, they realize their level of invincibility. Andrew captures it all on film, but his home life and awkward social interactions begin to distance him from his new-found friends.  His tragedy unfolds over a series of events that push him further and further into darkness and alienation.

In retrospect, Chronicle could be described as simply another X-Men story.  Boys gets powers.  They use them.  One of the boys turns to the dark side.  This creates a divide.  Who will protect humanity?  Is humanity worth protecting when you’ve become a higher species, or an ‘apex predator’ as the film calls it?  Max Landis penned the script, and he admirably combines realistic high school behavior with the deeper elements that give Chronicle the authenticity (despite some glaring holes) it needs to capture our attention over a brisk 80 minutes.  The story is never as deep as it think it is, but I’m guessing that’s why the filmmakers opted for the documented footage angle.  The audience doesn’t expect layers of depth if they are witnessing the events ‘as they really occurred’.

I personally would have enjoyed the film more had the filmmakers chosen to go deeper.  This sci-fi thriller is all surface details, comical interactions, and bloated action sequences.  Don’t get me wrong—it works.  But I can’t help thinking there is a larger, grander, better movie hidden inside this ambitious little cheapie that makes the most of its budget and young talent.  Chronicle is a fun little ride featuring unrealized potential.  Young viewers will eat it up.  And while the film may be satisfactory, I wanted more.


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