Saturday, 28 January 2012


20th Century Fox Films
Now Showing

Found footage films have been enjoying a steady popularity with cinemagoers, and film producers, for some 12 years following the success of The Blair Witch Project, the handy cam low-budgeter which racked up big scares and even bigger box office in 1999.

Of course, film producers like the 'found footage' genre (which more often than not is also horror) because it usually involves little financial output for potentially high gain. Chronicle, the feature film debut of director Josh Trank, would appear to have a higher budget than most others in this genre, but then that has a lot to do with the film's focus on superpowers rather than horror (not to mention the backing of 20th Century Fox).

When three high school students happen upon a tunnel-like crater in the woods, they investigate further where they discover a glowing, crystal-like meteor. Through mere exposure, the meteor endows the trio with telekinetic powers which, like a muscle, become stronger the more they are used (a bloody nose is an irritating side effect).

The boys - Andrew (Dane DeHaan), an outsider who is bullied at school as well as at home by his dad, an alcoholic nursing his bed-ridden wife; Matt (Alex Russell), Andrew's cousin, who likes to quote philosophy and thinks himself above the general high school populace; and Steve (Michael B. Jordan), the high school hero currently running for president - try out their new found powers. Though tentative at first, it's not too long before they're moving vehicles with the power of their minds, defying gravity and eventually taking to the skies.

Following a telekinetic snafu, the boys decide to set some rules for themselves - with great power comes great responsibility, yadda, yadda, yadda - which they agree to. But given that they weren't the best of buds to begin with, and with Andrew's home life deteriorating, those rules are soon broken and all hell breaks loose.

It comes as no surprise when Andrew decides to go Carrie on everyone's asses, and 'Hulk' out (you won't like him when he's angry) in down town Seattle. The problem for me was, I didn't find Andrew at all sympathetic.

Chronicle is told predominantly from Andrew's point of view (conveniently buying a video camera the day before the story begins and documenting his every waking moment) but the bullied outsider with a dying mum is a whiny wuss who, even if he hadn't been corrupted with alien superpowers, would most likely have become some sort of sociopath.

Still, all three leads are impressive as the adolescents (they even look like teenagers!) who have to cope with the double edged sword of superpowers on top of high school, home life and hormones; Max Landis's screenplay is as much about puberty blues as it is super-sizing.

And it's an impressive debut for Josh Trank, not only revitalising the superhero film but the 'found footage' genre as well (even if he does cheat somewhat towards the end with the p.o.v). 20th Century Fox were obviously happy with the result: there are conflicting reports that Trank has been tapped to re-boot their Fantastic Four franchise.

*Maybe he could also direct the talked about live-action version of Akira? My viewing companion informs me that Chronicle references that 1988 animated feature significantly.

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