Yet another shaky handheld film about the supernatural. Is there really a niche audience for this sort of thing? I guess it doesn’t matter. What matters is that Chronicle, in spite of its unrealistically comprehensive found footage coverage and a relatively mediocre plot, is a gripping film about greed that uses visual effects to its advantage. In fact, there’s no way the movie can exist without visual effects. It’s a clever example of how technology can push creativity, even if the result isn’t as creative as it should be.
Set in modern day Seattle, the film chronicles the lives of three high school students who encounter a mysterious alien thing burrowed deep in a forest. How it got there is never explained. What its purpose is is never explained. What exactly it does to the three students is never explained. So there is a lot that goes unexplained here and it will either intrigue you, or irk you. I’m not quite sure which it is for me. On the one hand, I like some ambiguity, and not knowing much about the foreign object really draws your attention to the personal lives of our three main characters. On the other, having some knowledge about it could very possibly give the entire film more weight. It’s a balancing act.
The three kids are Steve (an averagely popular black guy played by Michael Jordan, and no, obviously not the basketballer), Matt (the only level-headed one of the three, played by Alex Russell), and Andrew (Matt’s cousin, and an abused, lonely, socially awkward, power-hungry, and psychotic kid played by Dane DeHaan). After stumbling upon the alien artifact, they gain the ability to move things with their minds, and for some reason it causes their noses to bleed, especially when they use it too much. According to Matt, their newfound power is like a muscle; the more you use it the stronger it gets. And that is specifically true for Andrew, whose muscle kicks off in overdrive and very quickly makes him the most proficient of the trio.
The movie is delivered to us through a few handheld cameras. One belongs to Andrew, who documents his life and takes us on a tour of his neighbourhood and school. He’s also the one who films the trio’s discovery of the alien thingamajiggy. The other belongs to a girl named Casey (Ashley Hinshaw) who conveniently happens to be running a video blog, and so she’s everywhere, filming everything. And I think she’s also a former flame of Matt’s, and yeah, the two of them hook back up because lets face it, we need a screaming damsel in distress. The rest of the movie is filled by security camera footage and shots from random cameras as they capture the action. At times though (especially during the movie’s climax), no one seems to be manning a camera. This could either be a very intricately detailed move by Josh Trank, the movie’s director, or simply a lack of concentration. I think it’s the latter. The story gets so lost in itself that the whole “found footage” idea vanishes into thin air, as if it too is happy to just sit and watch.
So what actually happens in this film? Steve, Matt, and Andrew now have superpowers. At first they test it out by moving Lego bricks, but in no time they advance to playing pranks and practical jokes on innocents, like moving an entire car from one parking lot to another so that its owner becomes incredibly confused after a happy morning of grocery shopping. One day, Andrew accidentally — or deliberately — swipes a jeep off the road and into a swampy lake, just because he was tailgating. Steve hurries to save the drowning man but Andrew sees no wrong in what he’s done. This is where we see him slowly downward spiral into madness, and it doesn’t help that he has an abusive father and a dying mother at home.
Things quickly escalate as Andrew begins to realise that he’s the strongest of the three, and that he’s an apex predator, so he goes on a destructive rampage that culminates in a showdown with Matt, who only wants to save his cousin from self harm. This entire segment of the movie gets out of hand. Buses collide into Matt, they both have a battle in the skies (kind of like The Matrix Revolutions) and then take a nosedive into the ground, and they take hit after hit without leaving so much as a scratch and some blood on each other. The last I remember, telekinesis doesn’t give you invincibility.
And that’s a letdown for me because I thoroughly enjoyed the first two thirds of the movie. They had me believing that having telekinesis is cool, and I really wished I had it. I got tangled up in Andrew’s inner life and when his dad hit him, I wanted to hit him back. I wanted the three guys to stay together and be happy; I was rooting for them, even though I could see the greed and evilness brewing within Andrew and I knew he wouldn’t remain content with little pranks. I just wish that the rest of Chronicle was equally engaging. And perhaps drop the found footage idea if you’re not going to carry it all the way through.
Best Moment | It might be the bus smashing into Matt while he fights with Andrew. First of all, I didn’t see it coming. And second, it was pleasantly surprising. It would’ve been better if that had been the end of Matt though.
Worst Moment | The climax.