Three friends discover an energy force that endows them with super-human abilities and changes their friendship. One is seduced by that power and embraces the idea that he is the apex predator. He is at the top of the food chain and feels no guilt for his actions, no matter how they may impact others further down the chain.
Chronicle movie poster
What if you suddenly became a god?
Director Josh Trank uses the hand-held camera technique to document the lives of three high school seniors as they become young gods after discovering an (alien?) force. There’s not much more to the movie than that plot summary so really, if you’ve ever wondered what if you gained super powers…and what would you do? The trick is to show us something that is so ordinary that it’s special and thanks to good writing by Max Landis and Trank, we get that. I’m not suggesting this is a greatly written movie, I’m suggesting that it has been written to steer us in a certain way that retains realism and believability.
Blair Witch showed us how effective documentary styled filming can be and Cloverfield showed us how it can be used to bring on the cheese. You always have that nagging voice in the back of your mind- asking about tape and battery time and you wonder if someone would really, really be filming this much. In this case it works well and the camera slides into normalcy and you forget its first-person and just watch the onscreen action. The special effects are well done and seem even more realistic when combined with the lo-fi camera grain.
Back to the writing. It’s important to note that what’s been written out is just as important as what’s been written in. There’s the cliché of the trio. We have a loner (Dane DeHaan), Mr Popularity (Michael B Jordan) and a too-cool-for-my-own-life pseudo-intellectual (Alex Russel). The reason they work well together is because each posses the qualities another lacks and it keeps them focused on group concerns: exploring their new powers and getting stronger.
In younger days, I and my friends would play ‘Adventure’ which was basically Dungeons & Dragons without the paper and dice. We would build scenarios and talk our way through our actions and create a story in real time. You do or say this and this is what happens after. You react and do that and here’s what happens next. In the earliest games, we spent our time exacting revenge on those that wronged us and getting the girl we wanted. Eventually thoughts about our real non-life seemed unimportant and we began to think about being super-heroes and fighting other beings with powers and becoming worldly beacons of justice. Really, we did.
Chronicle could follow that same ambition process, but we are narrowly focused on this trio and the early days of their enhancement. High School life is still most important, and should be because that is all the characters know. We don’t get answers for where the energy source came from and do not explore any of the hinted at tangents -like the world and government reaction to some of the incredible events the trio is at the center of. There’s a built in break for using the hand-held documentary style because you can say: if it wasn’t filmed by this guy then we can’t show it to you. That’s broken up in some nice shots where surveillance camera footage is spliced in at key moments.
Of course in any movie, you can criticize the actions of the main characters and figure you could have done better in their position. One character needs cash and so he robs the local (presumed) drug dealing a-holes. That’s not enough so he robs a gas station. At first I thought with those powers why isn’t he making tons of cash or if you’re going to rob something, rob an ATM or bank…but these are simple characters acting on impulse. This is a simple movie trying to explore what some would do if they suddenly became infused with super-human powers. Sometimes we come back with complex answers when in truth; it might all be as simple as this movie. I thoroughly enjoyed this movie and the ending had a much bigger climax than I expected. I am not a movie critic, I am critiquing a movie.