Chronicle Would Have Been Better as a Traditional Movie, but Still Works as It Is
Recently, the "found footage" movie—such as The Blair Witch Project or Cloverfield—has really boomed. Some pull it off better than others, but it's definitely popular. But I think it's due for a makeover.
Strictly speaking, I wouldn't call it a "found footage" movie, though there is definitely an argument for that. I would prefer the term "amateur documentary." Mostly because, in the world of the movie, there is absolutely no way that anyone was able to find all this footage and paste together the narrative we see.
Most movies like this have a specific camera or set of cameras that they show in the initial phase of the movie and we are left with the understanding that that's where the movie came from. Here, the main characters have a couple cameras, but there's also footage taken from a young lady's video blog; security footage from a gas station and a hospital; police footage from interview cameras, dash cams, and chopper cameras. Toward the end, there's literally dozens and dozens of cameras filming the big finale from all kinds of angles, taken from passers-by and tourists and such.
Every shot of the movie is seen through the lens of an amateur camera, but there's no way this could have been put together as a movie that way.
But first, the story.
Our main character, through whose camera most of the film is viewed, is Andrew Detmer (Dane DeHaan). He's a bit of an outcast at school, but more importantly, his home life is nothing to ... well ... write home about. His mother is very sick (I don't remember if we're ever told with what) and his father is an out of work fire fighter who loves the bottle more than he does his son.
Andrew's cousin, Matt Garetty (Alex Russell), drives Andrew to school, and spends time with him, but we're given the impression that they're not bosom buddies. They're close enough, but they're not inseparable. One night, after a party, the two of them—along with Steve Montgomery (Michael B. Jordan), a popular kid who's running for student office and a friend of Matt's—find a cave with a patch of phazon inside. (From Metroid in case you don't recognize the substance.)
They start developing telekinetic abilities and some terrible nose bleeds. You know, because whenever you use your brain too much, it tries to escape out your nose. That's why I wore nose plugs all seven years of college. (What? You don't know me.)
Their abilities get stronger and they learn how to use the basic telekinesis to create other amazing abilities.
It's well told and the characters feel very real. You feel for Andrew every time we see another example of why his home life is undesirable. And the development of Andrew's character from quiet outsider to what he becomes is believable.
Basically, this movie would have been great without the added layer of Andrew filming his entire life.
To be fair, the first scene in the movie is Andrew filming his door as his father, drunk and angry at 7:00 AM, pounds on his son's bedroom door. You really begin to understand why this boy might want video proof of some of the things that go on in his life.
However, why can't we just make a normal movie, interspersed with sections of Andrew and his friends filming the exciting and notable parts of their new abilities? These movies always suffer from the same question: Why on earth would anyone film themselves doing all the boring stuff in life? The cool stuff, sure, but filming yourself lying awake at night? At times it gets a bit hard to suspend your disbelief.
But if you can do just that—and if you can stand the shaky way that people tend to hold the camera when filming the parts of their life that are so important that they just absolutely have to document it, but not important enough to not get a blurry picture of it—then this movie is actually very entertaining and compelling.
And I don't want to spoil anything, but it doesn't exactly end the way you might expect if you compare it to "found footage" movies like the aforementioned Blair Witch or Cloverfield. So it has that in it's favor. It's not a happy-go-lucky ending, but it's not the "Oh my gosh the world just blew up and I got it on tape!" type either.
But what do you think?
For me, this one gets a weak 7 / 10. Nearly a 6. But if it hadn't been for the "amateur documentary" style that kept distracting me from the story, it would probably have gotten as much as an 8. Either way, I think it's worth a viewing.
Chronicle is rated PG-13 for language, teen drinking, some sexual content and a lot of action violence.