Andrew Detmer (Dane DeHaan) is what you'd call your typical high school loner. Most students peg him as a loser, but he's really just misunderstood. His mom is practically on her death bed, his dad is an abusive drunk, and he has no friends. Nobody is willing to give Andrew a chance and he's too shy to break out of his shell on his own. Even his cousin Matt (Alex Russell) is a bit hesitant to hang out with him in public. As Andrew begins to start filming his life at all times, he soon discovers something of another world with Matt and student body president Steve Montgomery (Michael B. Jordan). Despite each of them developing chronic nosebleeds, they also discover they now have superhuman abilities. Andrew, Matt, and Steve push themselves to the limit and become stronger in the process. But as Uncle Ben said to Peter Parker, "With great power comes great responsibility." Friendships will be tested and destruction will become nothing more than an afterthought.
I felt a little weary going into Chronicle. The original trailer was interesting, but the TV spots seemed to show too much. They essentially gave away every key point of the storyline. Not only that, but they gave away too much of the special effects as well. That wouldn't be much of an issue if the effects didn't look so shoddy and cheap. Seeing it on the big screen did help, but they still looked a little hokey in the process.
Chronicle is shot in the documentary-style you've been forced to accept as a regular style of filmmaking ever since The Blair Witch Project came out in 1999. The upside is Chronicle doesn't look as amateur as what you may be expecting. There are a few shaky moments, but it's mostly in the beginning before Andrew gets a new camera. Once that happens, everything visual becomes a bit clearer and the perspective becomes a lot more interesting. The "floating camera" perspective is one of the more original aspects to come out of the film. One of the highlights of this perspective is when Andrew first puts the firefighter costume on. That scene in particular is pretty awesome, but is even more exceptional thanks to the intriguing camera work.
Those scenes where Andrew, Matt, and Steve develop their superpowers to their maximum potential are the best in the film. What human being has never dreamt of flying? The way Chronicle pulls that sequence off is incredible. The humor in it isn't too shabby either. It's typical high school drama at times, but it eventually grows on you much like the rest of the film.
Coming back around to the special effects, they plague the film in the second half. It wouldn't be so bad if there wasn't such a heavy use of them. More often than not, something computer generated looks out of place or is heavily shaded when it shouldn't be. It's almost as if you can get a glimpse of the original CG model that was used in whatever special effects software they used before it was actually rendered or something. Andrew's view of life is awful as everyone he runs into beats the snot out of him. After viewing the film, you can understand why this was done but most individuals aren't that cruel and it seems a bit much. Chronicle does seem to get better as it progresses, but it drops the ball in its final moments. You can see the opening for a sequel coming from a mile away.
Chronicle is much better than the trailers and TV spots let on. The camera work is fairly dynamic for a documentary-style film, the acting is very good for a generally unknown cast, and it's actually a lot smarter than it lets on. With that said though, its $15 million budget becomes very obvious with its heavy use of special effects and the finale of the film practically ruins everything good the movie has going for it. Chronicle is a pretty fun ride in the long run though. While it may not be totally original on the surface, the journey in the middle is fairly unique. Setting its flaws aside, Chronicle is quite possibly one of the most exciting stories of the birth of a super villain to ever hit the big screen.
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