REVIEW: 'Chronicle' - Re-Innovating Found Footage Filmmaking

Going into Chronicle... my expectations were actually higher considering the lack of legacy within the cast and crew. It's not that I'm a big fan of the found footage genre because if the story is strong enough and if it presents something new or innovative given its limits; they've already earned my ticket entry... Plus, I'm a firm believer that the style of "found footage" is exactly that; a style. Not a genre but an attempt to obviously tell a more personal perspective. Probably the only reason why I'm not tired of these types of film.

Now with my expectations so high... Chronicle met them on almost every level. I was extremely pleased with the results because this movie has a lot going against it. For one it's a fairly small budget ($15 Million) given its subject matter. For general comparisons, Cloverfield was made with $30 Million. Chronicle was also released in the lackluster month of February while  up against the first major theatrically released movie starring Daniel Radcliffe after the series finale with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2

It's funny to me that what I took away from this experience is that there are numerous moments where I can forgive the plot and it's eventual direction solely based on its excuses why something might/might not be happening. The film surrounds the lives of 3 senior high schoolers finding this... thing... that gives them incredible telekinetic (among other) abilities without much of an explanation. OK, I can forgive that. There is also what I can consider a 4th character of the film... and that's the fantastic cinematography. The camera and how it's handled works perfectly in this setting and couldn't in any-other found footage film. Not to mention the fact that we as viewers need to know with these kind of films... why are they filming everything? Oh no worries... they knock out that question within the first say 60 seconds of the film. Give or take.

Another thing I noticed was the three teens cover practically 3 different perspectives within high school. The lead Andrew (played by Dane DeHaan who is also the one holding the camera most of the time) is the socially awkward kid who literally gets picked on and beat up everyday. Also coming from a distressed home doesn't help too much either. His cousin Matt (Alex Russell) is the jock who suddenly decides not to be that guy anymore. Basically steps down from his popular days in efforts to get a girl. Lastly is the comedic relief is Steve (Michael B. Jordan), the guy running for class President and aspiring leader. These traits aren't in your face and it isn't talked about much but it passively affects the way they want to use they're new abilities... and as their abilities get stronger, their true personalities come to fruition.

I haven't talked much about the action in Chronicle... but believe me when I say that they put the money on that screen. The action itself isn't a series of epic battles, but the momentum of some of their new talents are fun and extremely intense. What's great is that they didn't have to show random act of violence after another random act of violence. Chronicle in more than one way has defined itself as a new take on both the found footage/superhero genre. Hopefully with the success of this opening weekend, more movie studios will jump to the idea of making more original content. Maybe so? Most likely not.

Recommendation:

I believe anyone looking to have a good time watching people with incredible amounts of power have fun the way teens have fun. It's all quite douche-y but it's an easier pill to swallow and laugh at because unlike Jackass... this is just a movie. Also, if you're into superhero films, this is a great and simple formula to follow.

Is this film "theater worthy"?:

Yes. The scope of this film lends itself to a great time. Big screen, full surround sound. Go with a group of friends, laugh loudly, and don't be afraid to gasp at some ridiculousness happening in front of you. And oh yeah, you'll find a lot of unintentionally funny moments in this movie. Just burst out in laughter along with everyone else.

My final thoughts:

I've praised this film too much but it's staggering to me to see what it was able to work with. Realistically... most of the characters weren't very worked out and some of their choices are borderline nonsensical. Then again, I didn't expect this movie to wow me as much as my previously reviewed film Haywire. I would like to see what Josh Trank (director) does next... he has the stuff and rumor has it; he may be the next in line to direct Fox's Fantastic Four remake. Nonetheless... It'll be interesting to see how the weekend totals balance out against Woman in Black. Could a group of non-recognizable super-powered teens beat out a well known child/teen/young adult idol in an adaption of a popular novelized ghost story? I guess we'll see.

Slamfist Rating: 8.5 out of 10

UPDATE: And it does.

Weekend Estimates:

1. Chronicle (2012) - $22,000,000

2. The Woman in Black - $21,000,000

3. The Grey - $9,500,000

via [Box Office Mojo]

With that said, I hope the studios will recognize that a decent script, strong concept, and a great director at the helm... we can see more of this in years to come.