Giving teenagers telekinetic powers is a bad idea. Filming the same teenagers as they grapple with how to handle the powers they are given though, is an excellent idea. Chronicle is one of those films that shouldn’t be good but it is fantastic. Chronicle is a first time feature for director Josh Trank and screenwriter Max Landis. Found footage films are not a genre that I’m a fan of but this time it works.
Chronicle is one of those rare films that follows that old Spider-man theme of “with great power comes responsibility.” The fun of Chronicle is watching the friendship and bond between these three teenagers grow stronger. When they first get their powers they experiment with them as everyone would. The teenagers push a cart, pick up a toy bear in a store and scare a girl with it, and move a red compact car just by using their mind. The person who seems most affected by his new powers is Andrew. Andrew has a very introverted personality and most of the reason why he is that way comes from the fact that his father is a disabled firefighter who happens to be an alcoholic. Andrew’s father physical abuses him and blames him for the illness his wife is dying from. Andrew has help in the form of his friends Matt and Steve. All three teenagers got their powers when they investigated a small hole in the ground. This hole lead to a giant rock that all three boys touched. This rock gave them their telekinetic powers. Each of Andrew’s friends has a distinct personality. Matt is intelligent and genuine but is not popular in any way. Steve is popular, friendly and social. Together all three teenagers in their forced bond support each other except of course when a single event changes one of them.
The problem with found footage movies is that none of the films ever feel genuine. Found footage films are used often to scare audiences. That’s it. Chronicle, as a film, is realistic. Steve, Matt, and Andrew all feel like real people that I could meet anywhere in the United States. The conversations that the characters have with each other feel organic. Filmmakers often forget that genuine emotions and conversations elevate stories that would otherwise be forgettable. Chronicle is elevated by realistic characters and honest emotions. It’s rare to be able to sympathize characters that are fiction. The actors in this film make their characters easy to relate to.
The major problem with this film is the fact that many of moments of the film have been shown in the trailer and thus expected and boring. I hate the fact that I knew when certain events were about to unfold. There was no suspense and that took my mind out of the film a bit. One other minor gripe I have with this film is that other than Andrew, no one else in the film evolves or changes as a person. Matt and Steve never do anything incredibly risky with their powers and they are not addicted to or interested in the fame they could gain from using their powers in public areas. I would have liked to see the characters branch out and attempt to help or punish others more. Despite these problems the film entertained me.
Chronicle gave me exactly what I wanted, a found footage superhero movie with action and heart. While this film will not be for everyone, I hope filmmakers are inspired to bring more depth to the found footage genre. Chronicle shows us ordinary people can be heroic.