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“Chronicle”: How Super Is It?

February 6, 2012

It seemed like a Herculean feat: to open a movie with no stars about teenagers with superpowers on Super Bowl weekend, when male eyeballs are Krazy-Glued to their TV screens. Yet Chronicle pulled it off, finishing No. 1 at the box office with a muscular $22 million, nearly doubling its reported production budget and proving more powerful than even Harry Potter himself, as Daniel Radcliffe’s The Woman in Black trailed with $21 million. It’s a bird, it’s a plane… it’s a hit! But how did they do it?

Ironically, for a movie about boys who can fly, by keeping their feet firmly planted on the ground. There’s nothing overblown about Chronicle, from its stealth marketing campaign (minimal TV spots and newspaper ads) to its storytelling style, which takes the found-footage genre that’s grown so tiresome for horror films—see The Devil Inside, or better yet, don’t—and transplanting it to a new genre. In the same way Modern Family freshened the mockumentary format of The Office by grafting it onto a domestic sitcom, Chronicle supercharges the spirit of The Blair Witch Project.

The characters’ behavior remains equally grounded. After spelunking in a mysterious crater, three Seattle high-schoolers (Dane DeHaan, Alex Russell and Friday Night Lights grad Michael B. Jordan) attain telekinesis and other extraordinary abilities—and proceed to behave exactly as three high-schoolers would, pulling Jackass-like pranks on one another, peeking under schoolgirls’ skirts and chronicling it all on video, hence the title. Then the fun and games take a tragic turn. 

The film takes place in a universe where everything is always being filmed, whether for a narcissistic teen’s blog or surveillance footage, and director Josh Trank (whose only previous helming effort was the underrated Spike TV miniseries The Kill Point) seamlessly weaves these jagged clips together into a compelling and ultimately disturbing narrative. Chronicle feels like the work of a new cinematic generation, and in fact, its cowriter (Max Landis, son of John) and production designer (Stephen Altman, son of Robert) are Hollywood offspring.

This movie is everything Heroes should’ve been—namely, 83 minutes. Even with massive budgets and superhuman stars, The Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises will be hard-pressed to be faster, darker and more powerful than Chronicle.

Were you shocked by Chronicle’s creative and commercial might? Post a comment!

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3 Comments
  1. Great review, but extremely shocking. I know the critics seemed to love it, but I found Chronicle’s melodrama to be far too “angsty” (if I can coin a word) to be legitimately dramatic. I thought it was very unimpressive. Check out my review and let me know what you think!
    http://burdseyeviews.com/2012/02/05/chronicle-2012/

    • I checked out your review–interesting take. I liked how relatable and realistic the high-school situations were, but your points are well-taken. Thanks!

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