MPAA Rating: PG-13/ Genre: Found Footage Sci-Fi Action/Stars: Dane DeHaan, Alex Russell, Michael B. Jordan, Michael Kelly, Ashley Hinshaw, Anna Wood, Bo Petersen, Rudi Malcolm, Luke Tyler, Crystal-Donna Roberts, Adrian Collins, Grant Powell, Armand Aucamp, Nicole Bailey/Runtime: 83 minutes
I think it is safe to say that whether that was their purpose or not, the subgenre of cinema that is the “found footage film” is one that could be interpreted as a clear confession that a lot of the generation known as millennials have an almost obsessive and borderline egotistic desire to show the world seemingly every waking moment of their lives. Indeed this theory may be one that is intriguing from the point of view of sociology and if anyone out there has written a thesis on it I would love to read it, but the dilemma still remains for movie goers that not only is the market completely flooded with this subgenre, but also that the vast majority of them are downright awful. Indeed for every one that’s like Cloverfield there’s at least five to ten like 2012’s The Devil Inside (one of the best times at the movies for all the wrong reasons I’ve ever had), and as a result there is the constantly-gnawing vibe that this subgenre has worn out its welcome…..only to have that be completely blindsided by something like the slice of cinema I am reviewing today, the also from 2012 Chronicle. Indeed I will be the first to admit dear reader that when I first saw this movie’s trailer a million and 10 years ago I was fairly certain I was going to decline reviewing it. Indeed not only did it look like yet another typical found footage narrative, but it also looked like a superhero origin saga and a bad one at that. Yet, much to my surprise I saw it, and I came to realize something astonishing. That being that whilst this slice of cinema doesn’t really bring a lot in the way of novelty, I mean this IS a film that liberally loans narrative components from the TV show Heroes, Carrie (any of the versions), and *surprisingly* Star Wars to an extent, it is also a slice of cinema that is astonishingly engaging and actually affable enough whilst also getting a pretty heft amount of magic from a minuscule budget of *only* 12 million dollars and as a result what could have been yet another run of the mill found footage is able to transform itself into a fairly riveting and enjoyable time to be had that you won’t mind revisiting time and time again.
The plot is as follows: Chronicle gets its riveting yarn underway as we see that in Seattle, with a mom who is tragically losing her vicious battle with cancer and a father who is both out of work and an abusive drunk, a guy making his way through the trials and tribulations of high school all on his own by the name of Andrew Detmer has decided to start recording his day to day routine with a low budget video camera thus, for all intents and purposes, putting up a barrier between himself and the world so he can no longer be hurt. Yet we see that our chronicler is not entirely lonely. Rather, he does have a quasi-sorta friend in the form of his smoking sage of a cousin Matt who enjoys giving their conversations various throwbacks to such individuals as Jung and Schopenhauer. Fortunately for you, the viewer Andrew takes his camera pretty much every place he goes. The reason I say fortunately is because this choice is what enables us as movie goers to witness Andrew and Matt, whilst at a party one night, decide to head down into an eerie cave they discover alongside a guy by the name of Steve who also just so happens to be the peak of the popularity pyramid at their school. Upon making it to the center of this underground cavern of sorts, we see that the trio quickly uncovers a bright and shiny crystal that even Dr. Cortex from Crash Bandicoot would covet and touch it….which then triggers a chain reaction that sees the camera act up and crash. However, the film soon resumes as we see that Andrew has managed to purchase a very nice high-def. video camera since this clearly has to look absolutely amazing enough to see both in theaters and on home release, but even more crucially we see that Andrew has also uncovered that since that night he has now come into the possession of some truly wicked telekinetic abilities. Yet it isn’t just limited to him; rather Steve and Matt also possess them and, since no one else would believe them if they talked to them about it, we see this trio decide to start spending a lot more time together in working out the various kinks of their new powers only to swiftly uncover that the more they use their new talents, the stronger they manage to become even though with all of this amazing power they now possess our trio must now also remember to exercise with an equally as amazing amount of….something that should be already engrained in even the most casual comic book fan’s mind. Suffice it to say though that it isn’t long before one of the boys (gee I wonder which one…) starts to take this incredible gift they’ve been given and by tapping into it at the same time as his already high amounts of isolation and misery really starts to turn them into a tool for some truly despicable things. As for how it all plays out however that is not something for me to tell you; rather I will just leave that for you to discover for yourselves…..
Now right off the bat I think it should be said that what this slice of cinema’s creative minds have managed to showcase so authentically, and a significant component for why this slice of cinema succeeds on the level that it does, is they authentically show how a trio of teenage bros would legitimately react if they were given the super powers that you see in this film (something that I can honestly confess to seeing as that age range is now safely enough behind me that questions can no longer be raised in regards to any behaviors I did NOT conduct at that time in my life). All jokes aside, there is no denying that it is quite fun seeing this trinity of young men use these powers to, for all intents and purposes, become, pranksters that would make Loki smile as they do everything from scare kids silly by making it seem like the toys in a store have entered the realm of the living to utilizing a leaf blower on a group of girls all wearing mini-skirts for…..reasons I’m sure I don’t have to spell out here. Yet whilst it’s all in good fun things soon take a turn when Andrew gets angry and uses his powers to harm another person. As a result, we see that this soon warrants our bro trio to slap a trinity of rules on the usage of their new abilities in the form of Don’t Use it on Things That Are Alive, Don’t Use it When You Are Upset, and Don’t Use Them in Full View of the Public. Of course coming up with rules are all well and good, but when one of the people endowed with these powers is someone who sees these powers as a chance to finally stand up for himself….things might be a bit more complicated. Indeed very much like the Star Wars franchise, this slice of cinema is also a coming of age saga in a sci-fi framework as we see Andrew’s issues and abusive father kind pushing him over the edge. I promise I won’t say what happens next, but I will tell you that this slice of cinema does a wonderful job of making the events that play out not only relatable and riveting, but also tragic and very human as well.
Now, as par for this subgenre of film, this slice of cinema is pushed into not only locating distinct methods for why everything in the film is being filmed, but also in providing us with methods that enable us to see the person holding the bloody thing who by and large in this slice of cinema is the character of Andrew. Sure every now and then the film transitions over to video shot on a person’s cellphone or events captured by a surveillance camera, but by and large the main visual hook in this film is seeing Andrew learn how to levitate his camera whilst he is engaged in other actions and thus permitting him to be on camera. A solution that I do find a tad bit too much in the convenient column, but at least it both makes sense and is a solution for all intents and purposes to that particular dilemma. Where this slice of cinema proves to be significantly less successful is in how it depends on a character who for narrative purposes just so happens to be a video blogger for extra camerawork, but then fails to really make her a fully three-dimensional character beyond that besides the typical damsel in distress trope at one point. Fortunately, though, this is one of very few narrative shortcomings since the trio of main male characters all manage to give in their own ways fairly riveting and engaging performances. Chronicle’s fun, prank-filled first half gives way to some seriously jaw-dropping moments that occur later on in this slice of cinema’s runtime with such things as crashing choppers, bullets being thwarted whilst in the air, pretty huge explosions and amounts of chaos and anarchy that in the mind of this reviewer were fondly reminiscent of when he would put in a bunch of cheat codes in an open world video game like Grand Theft Auto and just go nuts for hours. Suffice it to say that comparing this slice of cinema to that infamous video game franchise is a comparison that works remarkably well since, much like that game’s target audience, this slice of cinema is a teenage wish come true in a cinematic package as it permits you, the movie goer to be put in the point of view of some typical teenage bros if they were suddenly endowed with some truly incredible superhuman abilities. I mean if that honestly does not sound like a comic book fan’s dream come true then honestly I don’t know what does.
All in all well who would of thunk it? It turns out dear readers that apparently the land of movie magic can in fact make a slice of cinema that fits within the found footage subgenre that is not only fun and engaging, but also one that has no desire whatsoever to try and be yet another slice of cinema that is in the same vein as the Blair Witch Project (somewhere out there the movie gods are all looking down and smiling their approval) Suffice it to say that the 2012 slice of cinema that is Chronicle is one that has managed to come together in a way that is quite astonishing. Indeed here is a slice of cinema that takes a riveting yet typical sci-fi narrative hook in the shape of a trinity of teenage bros managing to acquire some truly incredible telekinetic abilities and then utilizes this hook to regale us with a narrative that is equal parts ominous, comedic, and yet also understandable in a lot of ways all whilst also giving us some truly incredible special effects work too. A feat which, considering this slice of cinema’s relatively low budget of 12 million dollars, makes it significantly more of a marvel than a lot of the recent live action cinematic outings given to us by an actual superhero company in the form of DC Comics and at the end of the day makes for a truly engaging time to be had. Now about that female-led sequel that’s supposedly coming our way……On a scale of 1-5 I give Chronicle “2012” a solid 3.5 out of 5.