Chronicle (2012)

Starring Dane DeHaan, Alex Russell, Michael B. Jordan, Michael Kelly, Ashley Hinshaw, Bo Petersen, Anna Wood, Rudi Malcolm, Luke Tyler

Directed by Josh Trank

Expectations: Moderately high. I really liked the FX in the TV spot.

Chronicle is a found-footage movie that forgets one key element of the found-footage genre: the consumer-grade video camera. Instead of shooting the film on low-end equipment to give the film’s tale credibility and reality, the filmmakers instead chose to shoot the entire thing on the ARRI Alexa (which runs about $90,000 for a starter kit), basically the current reigning digital camera champion. It’s been used to shoot a shitload of high-profile films such as Drive, Hugo, Melancholia, The Avengers, and many, many more. (And yes, I only picked movies that I had reviewed so that I could link them… What can I say? The shot in Chronicle of the Apple iPad hurtling towards the screen with the Apple logo always in full view inspired my shameless side. I would advise Apple’s marketing team to insist that in the sequel it is a MacBook that is hurtled so that the Apple logo can be illuminated when it’s flying towards the screen.) While the Alexa itself is revolutionary and truly able to capture some amazing digital images, Chronicle is a found-footage movie. The stunning visuals should come from the specifics of the action, not the quality of the cinematography.

In part, the film does deliver great special effects that make you believe three high school kids just got crazy superpowers. The best of these moments is the one that sold me when I saw it in the trailer. It features the lead kid riding in the back seat of a car. An asshole guy in a truck follows closely behind, honking his horn. The kid waves his arm to the side and the truck careens off the road, through the guard rail and into the river below. Holy shit! It really looks great, but a few pretty FX aren’t gonna do the job here. If this was a four-minute short film, I’d be singing a different tune, but this is actually one of the more boring eighty-minute films I’ve seen in a while. And I’m the guy that sat through six horribly lackluster Josh Kirby, Time Warrior films earlier this year.

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