Too often are superherofilms forgiven for theirshortcomings as qualityentertainment because of mass audiences’ attachment to icons like Superman or Batman, and because their adoring fan bases help turn a tidy profit at the box office for the studios backing these films.
“Chronicle” has nomulti-million dollarfranchise to call its own, and that may just be acharacteristic that works in its favor. Director Josh Trank makes an innovative feature debut, along with scribe Max Landis, in a film that soars past its more establishedsuperhero rivals.
When three highschool students stumble upon a mysterious glowing object buried deepbeneath the ground, theirinitial giddiness flourishesimmensely when theyslowly begin to realizethey’ve acquiredsupernatural abilities such as telekinesis and the ability to soar high above the localSeattle skyline. Much likeother uncanny heroes, their powers are exploited both for better and for worse.
While some may bedeterred by the film’sfound-footage-stylecinematography, which has worked in films such as 2008’s “Cloverfield” but floundered in the recent “The DevilInside Me,” it’s safe to say that “Chronicle” uses the concept to its advantage.
The film’s lead, Andrew(Dane DeHaan), begins tohabitually shoot his bleak and lonely life as if it were adocumentary, so when the events of his life take a turn towards fantasy, you’d believe he’d want to keep his camera out to capture the excitement.
DeHaan is joined by two other rising actors in Michael B. Jordan and Alex Russell, who help round out the lineup of this superhero trio.
While the boys couldn’t be more dissimilar at the film’s start, the bond that beginsto form between themduring the film’s runningtime makes for somegenuinely sweet andtouching moments that wouldnormally feel contrived or forced in a big-budgetsuperhero film.
Though some of thedilemmas in “Chronicle”develop with side characters,it becomes clear that the
drama belongs to DeHaan’s character Andrew. So when Andrew begins to display some darker tendencies with his powers, the othercharacters seem to step tothe side.
This could simply bebecause “Chronicle” isultimately Andrew’s story, but at times it feels as if you never really get to know
Andrew’s other friends. While the trio share a few greatmoments together, some ofthe dimensions of Jordan and Russell’s characters are never fully fleshed out.
This could be a criticism of the found-footage style, which often cuts from scene to scene without notice, leaving the audience to fill in certainmoments and plot points with their own imagination. While filling in the blanks isn’t much to ask fromaudiences who enjoy filmsthat ask them to think for themselves,
“Chronicle” does becomeoccasionally sloppy, and at times it feels as if the film chooses style overstorytelling.
Yet it’s safe to say that “Chronicle,” with a mostly taut script from Landis, is a carefully constructed piece of entertainment, the likes of which are few and far between nowadays. Trank maintains an assured hand for a director whose resume only boasts a few short films and episodes of the failed crime series”The Kill Point,” andmaintains the film’s energy right up to its potentiallygarish climax.
“Chronicle” is a film with mysteries best left to unfold before an audience in thecomfort of the theater, but it’s safe to say that it’s one that tells an effective tale offriendship and betrayal in a high school setting, in thecontext of a superhero film. That’s more than a lot ofbigger superhero filmscan say.
To group “Chronicle” into a genre that includes such disappointments as”Daredevil” and “The Green Lantern” is doing it adisservice, as it’s far better than most of its comic book adaptation counterparts.