A couple of months ago, my girlfriend challenged me to watch every superhero blockbuster ever made. I’m not entirely sure how up to that challenge I really am, but the fact that I’ve recently been catching up with the DCEU is what spurred it on. (And no, I’ve not seen The Suicide Squad just yet.)
As a result of this challenge proposal, I looked towards something more niche than your standard Marvel or DC affair, and went back to 2012 in which this standalone movie showcases traits of ‘Superhero Movie’, but is something entirely unique. In Josh Trank‘s Chronicle, we meet three high school boys who are actually not the best of friends when the movie begins. Dane DeHaan plays loner Andrew, who one evening finds himself being roped into filming two of his classmates when they venture into a creepy, isolated hole in the ground. After a strange discovery within the cave, the students realise they now have superpower-like abilities and must take steps to control them.
So what drew me into this movie in particular? Firstly, it’s only 83 minutes long. Secondly, Michael B. Jordan is one of the film’s main protagonists. And with that, you have my attention. I’m easy to please.
Usually I’m not a fan of found footage movies like Blair Witch for example. Then again, they’re generally always horror movies, and this was a really creative way of shooting this superhero-esque tale without making it feel like an unoriginal, ordinary teen film. Do I prefer movies with stunning cinematography? Absolutely. But this one called for something different and it’s pretty innovative when all is said and done. Specifically, the use of CCTV cameras, phone cameras and police dash cams is actually kind of genius, ensuring that the entire thing isn’t solely recorded on the main character’s handheld camcorder. (Remember those?)
Undoubtedly the best thing about the plot itself is the fact that it’s definitely science fiction, but it’s also incredibly realistic in its depiction of what teen boys would do when faced with such a situation. Questions of morality and ethics are explored – not comprehensively, but they’re there – to show you the reverse side of the age old “I wish I had superpowers” statement, which leads the film into the more experimental and unique category.
Yes, there’s a lot of “dude humour” in Chronicle, but what the film succeeds at is making its characters quite likeable regardless. The three main actors are perfectly cast, particularly Dane DeHaan, who has that naturally creepy face (you know what I mean, right?) What I’m saying is, congrats on that face, man. No wonder he was cast in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 – his face alone screams innocence but also mystery, which is exactly what you need to play the morally questionable Harry Osborn.
Overall, I enjoyed this more than I thought I would. On the one hand, the concept itself – in an age of superhero movies over-saturating the cinematic landscape – isn’t all that original. On the other, it’s short, entertaining, dark and funny all at the same time. Not to be sniffed at, especially for such a low budget.
Chronicle is available to stream on Disney+ in the UK.
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