It wouldn’t be fair to say the superhero genre is dead, but it’s almost on life support. Sure, in recent years we’ve gotten some really strong films, such as Spider-Man 2, Batman Begins, and obviously The Dark Knight. However, we also get stuff like Green Lantern and Fantastic Four. For every Iron Man, we get a Ghost Rider. Even with the good superhero films, there’s a bit of fatigue. It’s a lot of been there, done that, but this time with a new paint scheme, which plagued Thor for me. Luckily, we have Chronicle.
Chronicle is the tale of three high school students, who happen to find a crystal deep in a cave within the woods. After, they black out but are given super-powers. The real story comes from our main point-of-view, Andrew, played by Dane DeHaan. Andrew’s got it pretty rough, his mother’s dying, his father’s a drunk and he’s tormented at school. Now even though it’s a cliché background, it helps cement our emotional connection so that when Andrew begins to go down the road of evil, it’s all the more poignant.
The other two kids are Steve and Matt, played by Michael B. Jordan and Alex Russell, respectively. Where Matt is a bit more reserved and maybe not as big, Steve is the big man on campus. Everyone loves Steve, which makes an interesting dynamic as the three main characters come together. All give pretty great performances, with Dan DeHann being a stand-out. He drives home the emotional beats that make the cliché work. Something should be said about Michael B. Jordan, though, who proves yet again, as he did on The Wire and Friday Night Lights, that he’s one of the best young actors today.
The film starts out good, with our introduction to Andrew and his world, and it only gets progressively better as the film goes on. The adventure and joy is watching these kids discover their powers, but only to watch it all burn. Speaking of, the film is a lot darker than anyone could have really picked out from the trailers. There’s a lot of killing, a lot of abuse and a lot of just dark, which helps the film to stand out from its peers.
If there’s one major gripe I have with the film, it’s the found footage aspect of it. In some degrees it pushes the genre forward; it’s just not the right genre for this film. It’s nice that it doesn’t rely on a wraparound gimmick, such as Cloverfield or Paranormal Activity. It’s more that you’re just seeing the footage as it’s being filmed. The film even has a workaround on how the camera is still filming, even when action is happening.
However, it mostly serves as a distraction. The biggest penalty comes in the climatic fight. While I give the film credit for sticking to its guns and going found footage till the credits, it only hinders. Instead of seeing one steady shot, we’re treated to many different views as our characters fly through the city fighting. I will say that the final fight is still pretty great and moving.
Chronicle feels like a superhero movie we don’t deserve, but got anyways. It doesn’t try to set up a franchise as every superhero film must these days. It knows exactly what it is and it tells its story. Great performances and a well-paced script push the film forward. It’s a refreshing film that’ll stick out for years to come.
(Poster courtesy of IMP Awards)