Chronicle REVIEW

Extreme McDonalds: when the danger of a coronary 30 years down the line just isn't enough.


Release Date: 28 May 2012
2012 | 15 | 81/86 minutes | £19.99 (DVD)/£24.99 (Blu-ray)
Distributor: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
Director: Josh Trank
Cast: Dane DeHaan, Michael B Jordan, Alex Russell, Michael Kelly, Ashley Hinshaw

Watching debutant director Josh Trank’s superheroic spin on the found-footage film, you may find yourself wondering, “Why did they bother?” That’s nothing to do with its quality, and everything to do with the format. There’s no compelling reason for Chronicle to be a found-footage movie. Indeed, for long passages, as an omniscient camera swoops around, free of any apparent operator, you might forget that it even is one.

There’s a solid story reason for this: one protagonist is obsessed with documenting everything on his camcorder and also has the power of telekinesis. But still… if the end result looks like a regular movie, why not just make a regular movie?

Andrew, a bullied loner with an abusive drunk for a father, is the kid in question, one third of a suddenly-super triumveterate which also includes his philosophical, caring cousin Matt and Steve, their high school’s Mr Popularity. All three start to develop incredible powers after discovering a mysterious glowing, crystalline object that seems to have fallen to Earth.

With great power comes… well, bags of fun, actually, as the guys put it to use assembling LEGO towers, pranking innocent motorists, and blowing womens’ dresses up (disapproving tut). When they master flight, in a truly joyous sequence, you share in their exultation as they soar through the clouds. It’s the thrill of superheroes distilled to its purest essence.

Unfortunately, give an alienated kid with anger management issues superpowers and you create a ticking timebomb. When Andrew turns to the dark side it hurts, because you sympathise for him. Chronicle isn’t a film blessed with great depth, but the central trio are sufficiently sketched out for you to care about what happens to them. And the final showdown, which pits cousin against cousin, is a thrillingly crunchy mano-a-mano scrap. Okay, in the wake of Avengers Assemble it looks comparatively weedy, but judged on its own terms it’s a triumph.

Chronicle isn’t the first film to take this none-more-indie approach to filmmaking and ram several million bucks of effects up its wazoo; Cloverfield got there first, and in that case the results, though undeniably impressive, somehow felt a little like cheating – as if Jenson Button had turned up at a go-kart race in his McClaren. What Josh Trank has achieved with a meagre $12 million budget is a far more impressive achievement. So who cares if Chronicle is the found-footage film that pushes the envelope so far that tears?

Extras:

As well as the trailer, you get eight minutes of pre-viz material for the flying sequence and the climactic battle, and a camera test for the car park prank sequence (four minutes); the latter, interestingly, only features one of the three eventual leads. Both the DVD and Blu-ray come with a digital copy; go high-def and you get an extended cut with five minutes of extra footage.

Ian Berriman twitter.com/ianberriman

For an alternate perspective, read our Chronicle review from the theatrical release.
Read more of our DVD reviews.