Directed by: Josh Trank
Written by: Max Landis
Starring: Dane DeHaan, Alex Russell, Michael B. Jordan, Michael Kelly, Ashley Hinshaw
The found footage genre has found itself to work well in the horror genre because of the inherent horror of the ambiguity of this method. Personally, while appreciating the merits of this style, I have never found myself enjoying any of the attempts until watching Chronicle. A warped superhero story, which merges the issues of teenagers and then makes it worse by making them superhuman.
Ostracized teen Andrew (Dane DeHaan) begins videotaping his life with his mother suffering from cancer and one night discovers a crater with his cousin Matt (Alex Russell) and popular kid Steve (Michael B. Jordan). After investigating they discover they have acquired superhuman abilities, which includes telekinesis and flight.
The challenge I find in watching found footage arises from the shakiness of the camera movement and the convenience of our presence. In an effort to be genuine with its presentation, this style usually appears to be shaky because the average person cannot hold a camera perfectly still for so long. I understand the importance of it being genuine, but it makes it difficult for me to watch for an extended period of time. Additionally, when watching feature films, the camera serves as our entryway into these worlds and thus the camera does not play much of a role unlike with found footage. Each scene we see occurs with the knowledge someone has intentionally decided to film the events occurring. At times, those moments feel inorganic, but it works incredibly well in Chronicle.
The clever use of the camera in the important scenes appears not only from Andrew recording the situations but also from other people recording what they see when witnessing the use of these powers. Even in moments where I figured there would be no way they could capture it found footage style, I continually got proven wrong and the film deserves plenty of praise on that front.
Additionally, Chronicle displays how having this much power in the hands of teenagers could result in some catastrophic results. Within a span in their life where normal teens might not understand the power they have as they get bigger, adding powers makes it exponentially worse. It shows in the moments where they attempt to prank people and when they get too excited, their attempts at humor go dangerously wrong. The turning point occurs with a vehicle and where one of the characters begins to realize exactly how much they can do with the power at their fingertips. This begins the friction between them and things continue to get worse as they continue to have these abilities.
Acting in the cast you have impressive early outings for someone like Dane DeHaan, who reaches some interesting peaks and valleys throughout his career. He can have a stellar performance like this one where he embodies a level of anger abused teens can muster and then perform as the incredibly odd Harry Osbourne in The Amazing Spider-Man 2. This performance shows the incredible potential he has as an actor along with Michael B. Jordan. He has been consistently strong even with his very early roles as a child and he has continually improved with age. He embodies compassion in the role of Steve, where he has popularity but does not use it to bring down someone as awkward as Andrew. Seeing how Jordan can mold into someone so nice and then be dangerously threatening as Killmongerer in Black Panther shows the levels to his performances.
This film serves as a very strong debut for Josh Trank. He manages to use the found footage genre into something I could enjoy with the mixture somewhat calm footage along with chaos with the events happening later in the film. He manages to get to the core of these teens and what truly matters to them. It may not be clear at the very beginning, but the film pares them down until they have nothing to hide what they wish to do with these powers.
Chronicle takes the popularity of superhero stories and shows exactly why most of the superpowered heroes we follow have a level of maturity. Having this much strength without adequately understanding how to utilize it can cause dangerous results. We see just how bad it can get in this film and how quickly hormonal teens can act when they know they can do what they want. A dangerous combination and something Chronicle remains unafraid to tackle.