Review first published 11/02/12
Three high school students make a discovery that grants them the ability of telekinesis. However, what starts as fun and games for the trio with pranks and seeking popularity turns into something more sinister and dangerous as one of them decides to break the rules and become the ultimate “apex predator”.
Just over twelve years ago, a little phenomenon called “The Blair Witch Project” was released which broke new boundaries in film-making with a style that was deliberately amateur and broke down the “fourth wall” with the characters directly addressing the camera. “Chronicle” takes this idea and adds to it becoming the X-Men for the vlog generation.
The film is seen primarily from the point of view of lead character Andrew Detmer (Dane DeHaan) who decides to film his life, warts and all, including his father’s drunken outbursts, his mother’s illness and his relationship, or more appropriately, lack of relationship with his peer group at school.
Once Andrew, along with his cousin, Matt (Alex Russell), and student class president candidate Steve (Michael B. Jordan), gain their ability, what follows is a nicely paced morality tale which explores friendship, popularity, how it feels to be a victim and the abuse of power.
The performances of the three leads along with the script by Max Landis gives the characters a clear path as the teens start with tests on their abilities and pranks such as the movement of a car to confuse its owner which expands to flying and performing “magic tricks” to gain popularity at the school talent show.
However, once the darker aspects start coming to the fore, this is when the film becomes really interesting with the emphasis returning to Andrew as he uses his abilities to avenge himself on the bullies, both at home and at school, which becomes an insight of that phrase “absolute power corrupting absolutely” when this initially likeable and sympathetic character decides to become, in his words, the “apex predator”.
The direction by Josh Trank is innovative as he has to straddle a fine line of taking footage which looks like it’s been filmed on a camcorder, adding special effects which doesn’t scream out as “This is a special effect” and making the film look spectacular enough for the more fantastical elements such as the flying sequences and the film’s final act.
I was amazed by the quality of the effects in the showdown scene downtown Seattle and if Zack Snyder wants a template for any super-powered battle for next year’s Superman film (assuming that the film’s special effects haven’t been completed), he would benefit by using this scene as a starting point.
A solid film worthy of the praise that it has been garnering.