worst thing you can say about
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
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.
GIVEAWAY: Win a DVD today! See
- Rob Vaux