PG Cooper: Chronicle Review

Posted: February 18, 2012 by Daniel Simpson (PG Cooper) in PG Cooper's Movie Reviews

Release date: February 3rd, 2012

Running time: 83 minutes

Written by: Max Landis and Josh Tank

Directed by: Josh Tank

Starring: Dane DeHaan, Michael B. Jordan, and Alex Russell

Movies that come out in the early months of the year usually aren’t very good. They either suck, or they just aren’t very memorable. Of course there are exceptions. One such exception came in 2008, with Cloverfield, a movie which took a basic story and used the “found footage” style to elevate the material. Flash forward to 2012 ad we have Chronicle, a film released in February with a basic story that uses the “found footage” style to elevate the material.

Chronicle revolves around three young men who stumble across a strange, potentially alien object which gives them super powers. Only instead of making costumes and fighting crime, the three do what most teens with super powers would do; they screw around. But one of the boys, Andrew (Dane DeHaan), comes from a troubled home with a dying mother and an alcoholic father. Coming from such a dark past, the power becomes more than he can handle.

They are two types of found footage films: ones that try to trick the audience into thinking it really happened, and ones that use the style to tell a good story. Usually the best ones fall into the latter half (Cloverfield) are the better ones. Fortunately, Chronicle isn’t trying to make the audience think it’s real. It uses the stye for storytelling performances. I also think it does some interesting things. It does some interesting things with the cinematography too. Instead of just sticking to one camera, the film switches between several. We see footage that Andrew shot, and footage that other characters shoot. I know some will have a problem with this, but I thought it was really cool.

The script here is really strong. The three characters talk and act like regular teens would, and all three are pretty well developed. I also love the way the film had them dealing with their powers. This film handled super powers better than almost any super hero film I can think of. It’s fun to just watch these characters have fun with their powers. They pull pranks, they fool around, they act like how I’d probably act if I had super powers. I also think the film did a good job switching over into more serious stuff during the end. And while the film does end on a showdown, it isn’t as cliche as you might think. In fact I really liked the way the climax played out.

This movie also has the best acting in any film of the “found footage” genre. That’s not to say we’re getting brilliant performances, but these are genuinely developed and interesting characters. Dane DeHaan really stands out as Andrew, the troubled of the three. Andrew is a lonely kid with a lot of problems. He isn’t very good at interacting with people and has a very troubled home life. DeHaan makes you really sympathize with this character. Even when he wouldn’t say it, you could see the pain on DeHaan’s face. When things start to go well for DeHaan, you feel insanely happy for him. It’s tragic because you know Andrew is going to go down a darker path and you feel sorry for him. The rest of the cast aren’t as well-developed as Andrew, but both are very likable and you have a good time with them.

This is director Josh Tank’s feature film debut, and I’m pretty impressed with his work here. I love the way he chooses to switch from camera to camera and the powers they have help explain how the camera is able to capture so much. Tank also crafts some really exciting action scenes. I especially liked the first few scenes where Andrew uses his powers to deliberately hurt someone. It makes sense to the character, moved the plot forward, and was, in a sick way, cathartic. The climax of the film manages to be awesome while (mostly) sticking with the “found footage” style. The film is also paced extremely well. Despite a very short run time, the film doesn’t feel rushed at all. I really like what Tank did here and I look forward to seeing what he moves on to next.

The film also attempts to deal with some deeper themes. It looks at people who are bullied, popularity,  and the nature of power and those who aren’t ready for it. In many ways, the film is about the characters learning the classic lesson, “With great power, comes great responsibility”. I don’t think the film does anything truly unique with these themes, nor do I think the film is as intelligent as it seems to think it is. But that said, I applaud the film for trying to do something smart.

Despite all my praise, I do have my share of problems. For one, despite the film being a more unique superhero film, it is pretty predictable. You know what road Andrew’s gonna go down and why, so it’s almost an exercise in inevitability. Some of the effects can also look a little wonky. The film also goes through a weird shift where the least developed character is put center stage and becomes the one who learns his lesson so to speak. That ends my problems, but I should mention some will be bothered with how the “found footage” style is used. I thought it was fine, but I understand where some people would be bothered.

Chronicle is better than I would have expected from any film to come out this early in 2012. It’s also set the bar for the other super hero films this year pretty high (not that the bar was low for The Dark Knight Rises, but you get my point). It’s not perfect, but it’s fun, exciting, dramatic, humorous, it hits all the marks you’d want for a superhero film.Chronicle is also an innovative film, for both the “found footage” genre and the super hero film genre. Strongly recommended.

Rating: A-

  1. Summit10 says:

    nice read! Cheers!

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