If you were to ask me what two themes in films are way overdone now, I would say the "found footage" and "superhero" vehicles. Both of these have been done extremely well and completely piss poor. Both had their place at one point in cinematic history but now, due to oversaturation, it seems they're starting to overstay their welcome a bit. That really disapoints me since I consider both to be really fun and creative if done right. Chronicle infuses both into a single film, which is very dangerous ground to tread upon. Thankfully, they did just well enough.
Chronicle is a film about three high school friends who discover that they aquired special powers after they venture into a mysterious cave that glows blue. We never see what happens in the cave really because it's all done through "found footage" of the events that take place and it chronicles (get it?) their rise and fall. It's a first time attempt from director Josh Trank who, prior to this, was only an editor. It's written by also a first timer, Max Landis, who's the son of the famous director Jonathon Landis; a guy who was once a mighty king in the industry with An American Werewolf in London, Animal House, Three Amigos!, and Coming to America, but has since not really done much of note.
Keeping with the theme of newcomers and fresh faces, you won't recognize the cast either. It consists of Dane DeHaan, Alex Russell and Michael B. Jordan (Friday Night Lights). When making a "found footage" movie, it's crucial to have an unHollywood cast like this or otherwise it's totally not believable. This cast of three do a decent job given the limited script that they had to work with. Make no mistake, the film is cliche and predictable. That's not to say it's not enjoyable though and one of the reasons why is because of the performances from these three guys. Especially DeHaan, who looks like a young DiCaprio and shines as the tortured, wayward lead of the film.
One problem I had with Chronicle is that the "found footage" storytelling seemed like even more of a gimick than it usually is in film. They do a decent job setting up why they start video taping and even explain in a creative way how they can get such interesting and artistic shots. The problem though is that this movie would have been better if it was told and shot like a standard film. After a while the "found footage" comes across so forced and almost silly. There are multiple angles of the big climax and it's all explained how the different dramatic angles are captured but it's still forced and way distracting. Trank is a good director but I would recommend him dropping the phoney magic tricks and instead giving us a great film.
Chronicle stands as a fun and entertaining example of the superhero origin stories. It's always fun to see how it all started, although that's usually a lot more fun when it's a prequel for characters we already know well and love. But the action is fast and there's a fine mix of comedy and drama. To me, it seemed shoehorned in at times, but everyone else in the audience seemed to enjoy it. I look forward to another attempt from Trank and DeHaan in the future, just as long as it's not a Chronicle 2...one "found footage" of this story is passable, but any more would be beyond stupid.
Chronicle (Rated PG-13)
Gavin Grade: B-