Today: April 19, 2024

Chronicle

In the post-Blair Witch, Cloverfield, Paranormal Activity cine-verse of found footage, ‘wobbly cam’, faux-documentary fare, Chronicle is an exercise in why this mode of filmmaking is rapidly becoming a rather tired one.

In the post-Blair Witch, Cloverfield, Paranormal Activity cine-verse of found footage, ‘wobbly cam’, faux-documentary fare, Chronicle is an exercise in why this mode of filmmaking is rapidly becoming a rather tired one.

Though at times interesting, Chronicle ultimately suffers from a series of contrived camera angles and character perspectives that are far less convincing or appealing than, for example, The Blair Witch Project’s use of hand-held cameras as a dramatic tool. Thanks to an intriguing viral campaign however of parodied ‘is it real?’ stunts that you so often see on YouTube and mockumentary trailers, word-of-mouth might just make Chronicle a reasonable box-office success. As far as entertainment goes though, one’s fears are quickly realised as Chronicle is much less fun than those bizarrely addictive videos of ping-pong balls being thrown into cups and American footballs being thrown into bins.

Chronicle opens with a shot of Andrew (Dane DeHaan), a reclusive, ostracised and self-confessed nerd, filming himself in the mirror as his abusive father tries to break into his room. Immediately we are aware of two things: the perspective from which the film will be shot throughout. And that Andrew is a troubled loner, the kind frequently found in films such as these being bullied in school hallways by jocks. Things begin to change for Andrew, however, when he, his cousin Matt (Alex Russell) and all-round high school god Steve stumble across an unexplained object that gifts them the use of superhuman powers such as telekinesis, flight and abnormal invulnerability. From this point forward they share a bond but are never to return to the lives they had before.

In the initial stages this then is the familiar superhero set up. Similarities with Sam Raimi’s Spiderman are clear influences as the trio test their powers to varying degrees of success. In these moments both the film and its found footage-style work best. The aesthetic quality of so many of the YouTube stunt videos that you see littered across the internet is mimicked while Andrew, Matt and Steve engage in a series of pranks and testing of their powers. Chronicle suffers though when it has to expand beyond the frat boy humour of prank videos and appear more as a sci-fi action flick. In this sense the incessant moving camera and use of contrived visual perspectives is a great distraction, resulting in a very detached emotion towards the film as a whole.

Chronicle is not the first superhero film to implement the faux-documentary style. News feed clips and YouTube videos were used in Hancock to depict the powers of Will Smith’s reluctant superhero. Recent examples that have more successfully used found footage to accompany more traditional cinematic craftsmanship are films such as J.J. Abrams’ Super 8. In these instances, the footage was more of a footnote as opposed to a staple of the entire picture.

Though one is hesitant to blast a young and inexperienced actor in his first leading role in a film, Dane DeHaan is laughably awful as the power-possessed Andrew as he goes all Anakin Skywalker. Hayden Christensen is definitely given a run for his money in the embarrassingly terrible stakes here. This result, however, is not solely down to DeHaan’s own deficiencies in the role. In the end the film fails to sustain a decent amount of interest in the story in order for you to forgive, or ignore, any sub-par acting. The execution in particular of Andrew’s embracing of the darker side of his powers is all too reminiscent of the latter Star Wars films, and that’s not a good thing.

An interesting idea, admirably made on a relative shoestring budget, director Josh Trank shows flashes of ingenuity whilst handling the more YouTube-esque segments. But let us not forget, YouTube clips and viral videos are much shorter than Chronicle’s 83 minute running time. And when the viral campaign is more entertaining than the film itself, something’s not right.

Alex Moss Editor

Alex Moss’ obsession with film began the moment he witnessed the Alien burst forth from John Hurt’s stomach. It was perhaps ill-advised to witness this aged 6 but much like the beast within Hurt, he became infected by a parasite called ‘Movies’. Rarely away from his computer or a big screen, as he muses on Cinematic Deities, Alex is “more machine now than man. His mind is twisted and evil”. Email: alex.moss@filmjuice.com

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