The found footage film and the superhero movie are both formulaic to a fault, so it’s odd that the combination of the two bring new life to both. Josh Trank’s Chronicle tells the story of three kids who gain powers, but does so in a way that’s refreshing and engaging. The movie was a surprise hit, and we can’t wait to see what Trank does next. Our review of the Blu-ray of Chronicle follows after the jump.
The film starts with Andrew Detmer (Dane DeHaan) who is an outsider and dealing with an abusive father and a sick mother. He decides to start filming his life to protect himself, and partly to remember his mother. His best/only friend is Matt Garetty (Alex Russell), and he gives Andrew rides to school.
Their life changes when they go to a party where the two and Steve Montgomery (Michael B. Jordan) find a mysterious hole in the ground. They investigate, find something weird and the next day discover that they have the power of telekenesis. This is where the film gets to be a lot of fun as they discover that they get stronger the more they use it, and begin testing it out in fun ways (pranking people at a toy store, making syrup move into the shape of the virgin Mary). And this is where the film finds its hook as you believe that these three teenagers are having fun and that it’s as much as a discovery for them as the audience.
But Andrew has a dark side, and when pushed, he accidentally sends a car off the road. The boys learn to fly, but the further things go along – and even after a party where Andrew is accepted by the school (and Matt finally gets together with the girl he’s been crushing on), his first sexual experience is embarrassing and his situation at home gets worse. Such leads to him embracing the dark side, and Matt and Steve have to face him as foes.
Though the third act – which goes for scale – almost works against the film, it’s understandable that they’d want to stage something big to get the film out of its found footage origins. But you like the characters enough that you go with it, and the film accomplishes a lot on a small budget. When people say that the film has some Akira in it, you can see it at the end, and it’s even smart in how it stages that chaos.
Though the found footage factor only becomes troubling toward the end – when it has to use security cam footage to explain its angles – for the most part the camera works in this film. Though it may not be organic, once the boys have superpowers everything they film makes sense to film. Too often these films show sequences that don’t make sense (like in Paranormal Activity 3 when someone videotapes themselves watching a videotape), and for a long time, Chronicle feels like something that could have been filmed and found.
But more important is that the character work is good. You like these characters, and you get them. They aren’t just pawns being moved into danger’s way, or the inevitable confrontations, and Max Landis’s script deserves a great deal of credit. The film is a minor miracle, it shouldn’t work, but damn if it doesn’t. It came out early in the year, but it’s definitely (at least so far) one of 2012’s better films.
The Blu-ray comes with both a DVD and digital copy. The film is presented widescreen (1.78:1) and in DTS-HD Master Audio. The transfer… well it’s found footage, so it looks like it’s going to look. The film comes in both a theatrical (84 min.) and director’s cut (90 min.) the additions are minor, and extras are kept to a minimum. There’s a deleted scene (1 min.) with near nudity (seems like the only reason why it was filmed), and pre-vis (8 min.) for the end action sequence. There’s also camera test footage (4 min.) to show how they’d do the effects. The disc rounds out with the theatrical trailer and bonus trailers.