Chronicle (2012) Directed by Josh Trank. With Dane DeHaan, Alex Russell, Michael B Jordan and Michael Kelly.
As the market gradually expands, producing a fresh take on the superhero genre is more and more, becoming a harder thing to achieve. We’ve seen many franchises remade, rebooted and re-imagined countless times now, but still, things continue to enlarge and splinter off. Where Chronicle succeeds, is that it takes two well-worn ideas, and cleverly fuses them together.
Ever since The Blair Witch Project proved that you can have your cake and eat it, in terms of a low budget film becoming a huge commercial success, the genre of documentary style, ‘found footage’ films, has explored many themes, mostly based in horror and nearly always to a background of ringing box office cash registers.
For Chronicle, director, Josh Trank is smart enough to recognise the potential for freshness amid so much familiarity. His film follows the day-to-day travails of Andrew (Dane DeHaan) as he sets about video-recording his life, which mostly consists of him being abused by his alcoholic father, as his gravely ill mother lays dying in her bed, or, being subjected to bullying at school. Then, at a party, Andrew and his friends discover something in some nearby woodland that gives them Superman-like powers.
After this, the tone completely changes. It goes from a dark, disturbing study of loneliness and the horrors of abuse, to Jackass with superpowers. It’s a welcome shift and provides some genuinely funny moments, as the teens experiment with their new found abilities, playing pranks on unsuspecting members of the public. It’s almost as if, with great power, comes the need to exhibit great irresponsibility. Then, the tone begins to shift again.
I won’t spoil the film by going any further, but suffice it to say, Chronicle is a clearly cut, three acts. At times, the finale is much more ambitious than you might expect, as the found-footage style brilliantly hands over to news coverage to describe the dramatic conclusion. As Andrew, DeHaan is excellent, convincingly playing the tortured soul who’s sudden gift of unlimited power is equal parts blessing and curse.
Like Cloverfield before it, Chronicle succeeds by taking something larger than life and stripping it down. Unlike many of the superheroes we see in popular culture, Andrew and his friends are real people, and their emotional baggage, or lack thereof, plays a huge role in determining their response to becoming all powerful. Widely accessible, heartbreaking and a huge amount of fun, Chronicle is only let down by it’s unimaginative title. 4/5