For a film trying so hard to not be part of the superhero movie genre, “Chronicle” falls into the trap of embracing other, much worse genres. While it is easily watchable, it still fails to meet the basic criteria of storytelling and character development.
Three high school students make an incredible discovery, leading to their developing uncanny powers beyond their understanding. As they learn to control their abilities and use them to their advantage, their lives start to spin out of control, and their darker sides begin to take over. (Synopsis by the Official Site)
Right from the beginning, the film feels like the WB (or CW) should have a production credit. The opening minutes are trapped by the cliché of angst-driven teens in their senior year of high school and the cinematography of the maddening “found footage” genre. Two of the three lead characters are immeasurably annoying. Andrew is the withdrawn, artsy, outcast teenage stereotype with the abusive father. Matt is the deep thinker, who attempts to add depth to the film by spitting out psychological quotes about the nature of man. Mostly he just comes off as pretentious. Fortunately, the third stereotype… ahem, “character,” is the energetic, minority class president to be, and is at least likeable—though maybe only in relation to the antagonizing whining and pompousness of the other two.
Thankfully, the film kicks into gear after the boys develop their superpowers. To the film’s credit, this is accomplished without much explanation. Trying to answer too many “why’s” would have only served to drag the film down—better to avoid them. After many scenes of the trio learning to use their powers, the climax begins to emerge as Andrew begins to retaliate against the problems in his life. You can see this coming a mile away, but the intensity and darkness with which it is approached is not typical. Luckily, during this process, the camera work becomes steadier, giving a reprieve to audience members experiencing nausea from handi-cam view.
The twenty minutes of action at the end is reminiscent of “Cloverfield” in intensity and the return to handi-cam mode. The computer-generated landscape of Seattle (this was filmed primarily in Capetown, South Africa and Vancouver, B.C.) doesn’t quite seem to meet the standard of reality. It is mildly distracting, but is mainly overshadowed by the typical horror-genre monster showdown between the boys. For those of you keeping score, that would be a tally of three for “conforming to genres” and one for “non-conforming.”
Is it so bad that this not-particularly-good film manages to be a watchable guilty pleasure? Not entirely. However, if one of the basic premises is that the film is going to be anti-superhero genre, it is a cop out to then tie it to several others. Worse, the characters never change. At the end of the film, no one has learned anything more than they knew at the beginning. The basic premise of story is character development. Without that, the connection to the audience is lost. No one cares that “stuff happened” to these characters and then they went on with life. What changed? What is learned?
Perhaps I’m too harsh. It is enjoyable. Mindless, but enjoyable. While it’s frustrating that more was not done with the characters—and there was plenty of potential—it is far from being a bad film.
“See It/ Rent It/ Skip It”: I should just add a new category: “See It on TNT in Two Years.” As an aside: they couldn’t even come up with an original movie poster for this one? Really??
TWO STARS out of four.
Directed by Josh Trank. Written by Max Landis
Rated PG-13 for intense action and violence, thematic material, some violence, sexual content, and teen drinking.
Runtime: 1 hr. 23 min.