Film Review: Chronicle (2012)

on Tuesday, February 14, 2012
'Chronicle' (UK Release: 1 Feb '12) // Words: Lauren Johnson-Ginn

Witches, ghosts and – more recently – trolls have all been given the found-footage treatment, and with 'Chronicle' the superhero genre takes its turn, with shaky camera work and dubious CGI effects aplenty. I’m not sure the film is entirely as memorable and enduring as its title would suggest, however.

Co-written and directed by newcomer Josh Trank on a relatively low budget, 'Chronicle' documents the lives of three teenage boys, who – after discovering a mysterious crater that houses a glowing, crystalline substance – develop powers of telekinesis.

Dane DeHaan stars as Andrew, the troubled outcast (and cameraman) of the bunch, who has an abusive drunk for a father and a mother who is terminally ill. Andrew forms a brotherly bond with Matt (Alex Russell) and Steve (Michael B. Jordan) as they explore their newfound abilities, but their friendship deteriorates as Andrew’s sinister potential is realised.

All three lead actors deliver convincing performances, adding to the film’s refreshing sense of realism. The dialogue is amusing and natural, particularly in the early sequences where the boys test out their powers with a series of puerile pranks, perhaps taking a few cues from 2010’s 'Kick-Ass'. DeHaan’s performance is especially praise-worthy; he conveys Andrew’s vulnerability and turbulent psychological state with subtlety and skill.

However, although largely enjoyable, the film does have its flaws: no effort is made to explain the enigmatic crater, the source of the boys’ powers. It also seems slightly unlikely, in today’s post-modern age, that none of these (presumably) pop-culture savvy teenagers would think to use their powers for the greater good – or to compare their unusual situation to the exploits of Peter Parker, Charles Xavier, et al.

Unfortunately, the compelling nature of Andrew’s character seems to throw the other two protagonists into the shade, to an extent reducing them to props who simply react to his increasingly dangerous tantrums – but then the ‘bad guys’ usually are the most interesting.

In many ways, the plot of 'Chronicle' is formulaic and predictable, but perhaps this is partly due to the fact that cinema has been so saturated with superhero narratives in the past few years that audiences have lost the capacity for surprise – although that may just be me. The found-footage style undoubtedly injects some novelty into the genre, however, and both the young cast and director show promising talent for the future, so watch this space.

★★★ ½ (3.5/5)

'Chronicle' is in selected UK cinemas now.

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