Chronicle (2012)
So we’ve finally gotten to the point that the “found footage” technique has bleed over into other genres outside of horror. I see that as a positive step. In this case, we’re talking about the
Published on February 9, 2012 | Filed under Review

So we’ve finally gotten to the point that the “found footage” technique has bleed over into other genres outside of horror. I see that as a positive step.

In this case, we’re talking about the superhero movie Chronicle.

The basic story of Chronicle (and I won’t go into anything more specific than what’s in the trailer) is that three high-school kids stumble across a hole in the ground full of some mysterious powerful shit. This mysterious powerful shit imbues them with a number of superpowers, the most prevalent being telekinesis and a Superman like ability to resist physical damage. The bulk of the movie follows the three boys as they learn what they are capable of and how they want to use these powers.

The movie was written by Max Landis (son of John) and is both a tribute to and reinvention of the superhero mythos. It’s very much an origin story in the classic comic book formula and roles are divvied out pretty quickly. It’s obvious (especially to people familiar with comic book superheroes) right from the beginning who’s going to be the hero and who’s going to be the villain. They even gave a nice little nod to Superman by making the hero’s girlfriend a video blogger who is constantly interviewing everyone and documenting everything. A Lois Lane for the a new generation.

I enjoyed the movie, and more than anything, it made me want to see more of what this team of fimmakers (Landis and director Josh Trank) can do with this story. Like most origin tales, it left me itching for the actual story. Part of that was because they didn’t quite define things as much as I would have liked.

Now, I’m in awkward position here, because more often than not, I criticize movies for feeling the need to tie everything up and explain everything to the audience. I can appreciate vagueness in a movie and I respect an artists who can hold back information and trust that the audience will follow them through to the end.

That said, I kind of wanted them to define these characters in superhero terms just a little bit more than they did. Not because I didn’t understand it, but just because I like superheroes and comic book storytelling. I like being able to appreciate those comic book elements in a new way, and I feel like this movie could have done that a little more. That’s more my baggage than a flaw in the movie.

I think part of the problem is that there was a little bit of me that desperately wanted the movie to be a new Unbreakable. I’m in the minority of people who absolutely loved Unbreakable and the unique spin it took on superhero mythology. Watching this movie, I couldn’t help but be constantly reminded of Unbreakable, which left me somewhat disappointed. Because while Chronicle was a fun movie and an interesting movie and, I think, an important movie, it’s no Unbreakable. To me, Unbreakable is a damned near perfect movie.

Again, my baggage. It’s not fair to compare the two because they’re really are two very different movies that just happen to cover similar ideas.

I had minors issues with the movie. There were a few parts where I felt like the footage we were watching was far too slick to be incorporated into this found footage film. It’s supposed to be shot on a modern handi-cam, but there were scenes (specifically when they were flying) that just felt like modern computer aided filmmaking. I think that if they had been able to allow the camera to be a little shittier and the image to be a bit darker and grainier and shakier when they were dicking around up in the clouds, the gravity (no pun) of the situation would have been much more intense and it would have been a more visceral experience.

There’s a massive fight sequence in the movie that seemed to go on for hours. It was cool looking and all, but it felt like half the movie was dedicated to it. I suspect that that fight sequence was the genesis of the movie. It seemed to be the sequence that best used the found footage technique, and they did a good job of using that style to take something that we might take for granted in movies and firmly plant it in the real world. That is, what would a superhero fight look like from the ground?

It reminded me of the Alex Ross painted comic book mini-series Marvels, which examined the world of Marvel Comics from the perspective of a newspaper reporter.

That aspect of it I could certainly appreciate. I’m a big fan of reexamining genres and modern mythology from new perspectives. I’m especially fond of taking fantastic ideas and applying them to the real world.

The ending of the movie was a little odd. Obviously I won’t spoil anything, but it’s either really vague or it’s so simple that I’m looking for deeper meaning that isn’t there. If anyone who’s seen the movie has any kind of information or an idea of what they think happened in that last scene, send me a message or something, because I’d like to talk about it. Perhaps there was something after the credits that I missed.

It’s worth linking the short film Max Landis made, which has an insane amount of famous people acting in what appears to be something a bunch of kids made for twenty bucks. The short is relevant to the subject matter at hand, which is why I’m linking it.

The last thing I want to say is that the actor playing the main character (Dane DeHaan) reminded me so much of Leonardo DiCaprio in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape that I found it a little distracting at times. I kept wanting him to start screaming “I COULD HAVE DROWNDED!”

I don’t mean that as an insult. I mean, there are worse things in the world than looking like Leonardo DiCaprio.

An American trapped in Canada.

  • Christine

    Glad to have you back!
    I’m really curious about this one. I assumed a found footage film dealing in this subject matter would be difficult to pull off, and rather unsuccessful. But, overall, it seems like you enjoyed it. That gives me hope.

    • Thanks 🙂
      I think this movie mostly worked because of this generation’s obsession with being “omg me and my friends are so random”. It’s like the whole planking/owling/headless-horse-manning/coning mentality actually produced something interesting.