Chronicle (Two-Disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo +Digital Copy) (2012)

Actors: Michael B. Jordan, Michael Kelly
Director: Josh Trank
Format: AC-3, Color, Director's Cut, Dolby, DTS Surround Sound, Dubbed, Subtitled, Widescreen
Language: English
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish
Region: A/1
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Number of discs: 2
Rated: PG-13 (Parental Guidance Suggested)
Studio: 20th Century Fox
DVD Release Date: May 15, 2012
Run Time: 84 minutes




The worst thing you can say about Chronicle is that it isn’t quite as innovative as it wants to be. It borrows heavily from the “just plain folks” aspect of the Marvel Universe – the notion that having super powers doesn’t necessarily solve your problems – and takes it to a logical extreme.

It follows in the footsteps of revisionist comic stories like Kick-Ass and Heroes, with a healthy dose of moral ambiguity added for good measure. It also adopts the increasingly tired found footage format, a decision that presumably saves some money but does little to enhance the drama on display.

Beyond that, however, the filmmakers deliver a nifty little revision of the superhero story, infused with a great deal of thoughtfulness and a strong sense of what someone with superpowers would look like in our world. It focuses on three Seattle teenagers – abused Andrew (Dane DeHaan), popular Steve (Michael B. Jordan) and go-along-to-get-along Matt (Alex Russell) – who run afoul of a strange glowing meteor in the woods one night.

In the ensuing weeks, they develop astonishing powers of telekinesis, which they soon diversify into flight, strength, invulnerability and other typically superheroic traits. Naturally, none of it changes their youthful insecurities, their overconfidence, or the fact that they really don’t understand what they’re doing. Not-so-zany mayhem ensues.

Director Josh Trank bets heavily on human interaction and character to carry his story and comes up big. He aptly captures the emotional rawness of high school – the yearning search for individuality coupled with a desperate need to belong – and understands how the insertion of godlike abilities could drive this trio over the edge. At first they’re thrilled, then reckless, then sober at the slow realization of what they can (and still can’t) do. One of them ultimately cracks under the pressure, but he’s not a villain. The other two hope to stop him, but they’re not heroes. Their conflict echoes the recognizable rhythms of reality: messy and unpredictable, with plenty of shades of gray to layer the narrative.

Therein lies Chronicle’s biggest asset, allowing it to hold its own against bigger films like The Dark Knight and The Avengers. These characters quickly earn our sympathies and hold them fast. We don’t always condone their behavior, but we know where it comes from and their anguish resonates with us as deeply as their joy.

The Avengers pulled off the same trick, but it had five previous films and 50 years’ worth of comic books to support it. Chronicle starts from scratch, and its unique take on the superheroic origins story gets up to speed with impressive results. The proof appears most directly in its overt set-up for sequels, which feels like a natural extension of complicated and understandable events, rather than just another case of Hollywood overreach.

The only real downside, again, comes from the chosen format, and the way it segues into yet another tiresome commentary about young peoples’ need to document themselves. It covers well-worn ground and lends very little to the otherwise potent drama on display. That flaw, however, only further highlights the rest of the film’s reliable credentials. The superhero movie renaissance surges on with no signs of stopping; it’s nice to know that small gems like this can find a place amid the behemoths of Marvel and DC.

THE DISC: Reliable, but nothing worth writing home about. The “unrated director’s cut” trumpeted on the cover makes few changes to the overall texture of the film, and the extra features consist of standard-issue deleted scenes, trailers, and behind-the-scenes info. Image and sound quality are good, though the shaky-cam techniques of the found footage format render the HD moot.

WORTH IT? The $40 price tag is excessive for the content, though deep discounting from Amazon and similar outlets helps tremendously.

RECOMMENDATION: Assuming you can find it for a reasonable price, Chronicle makes a solid addition to any superhero fan’s collection. Even non-comic geeks will appreciate the well-developed teen drama and thoughtful storyline on display here. 

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- Rob Vaux



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