Chronicle Review
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Chronicle isn’t just a movie about superhuman powers, but it’s one with a unique ability all its own. It takes two tricky film genres, each with a score of miserably failed attempts, and combines them into a satisfying whole. Thanks to some clever ideas and a game cast, it ably demonstrates the dark side to the classic line from Spider-Man, “with great power comes great responsibility.”

First off, this is clearly a superhero movie. It follows three friends, abused and socially awkward Andrew (Dane DeHaan), his more popular cousin and wannabe intellectual, Matt (Alex Russell), and school golden boy Steve (Michael B. Jordan). Tired of the abuse from his alcoholic father and bullies at school, Andrew begins filming his life, much to Matt’s confusion.

One night, at a barn rave, Matt and Steve enlist Andrew’s camera to film a cave they’ve found—and a strange glowing rock inside it. A quick jump-cut later and the three young men have begun to bond over the new mysterious telekinetic powers they’ve acquired. At first, it’s all pranks and discovering new uses for their growing abilities, but it’s clear that—for Andrew, at least—these new abilities can’t fix everything, and the chance for misuse is great.

As a superhero story, it falls on the three leads, especially Dane DeHaan as Andrew, to really sell the emotion in the characters. DeHaan gives Andrew just the right mix of simmering resentment and fragile hope that, while there’s no question that the former will hold sway, there’s just enough of the latter for the audience to stay with him. Alex Russell balances him out in the less flashy role of Matt, whose transformation is both more noble and more subtle.

Chronicle also brings some new energy to its other difficult genre, the found-footage film, a somewhat overused approach that tries to mask underdeveloped plots and budgets with shaky handheld cameras and ad-libbing. But writer Max Landis and director Josh Trank cleverly use the technique in the first half to add intimacy to both Andrew’s misery and the trio’s giddiness in learning what they can do.

As Andrew’s powers grow in the second half, he begins to use his telekinesis to float the camera around him, freeing the film from some of the constraints of the genre. This freedom, combined with a deftly edited mix of security camera and bystander cell phone video, as well as some impressive special effects work, allows Chronicle to stage a final-act superhuman brawl through downtown Seattle that ranks among film’s best.

Through it all, Chronicle manages to hold onto a very human story about how much damage a young person can absorb and how dangerous it can be when someone like that acquires too much power too quickly for them to handle. That it does so in a way that manages to feel fresh while embracing some well-established genre conventions and techniques is no mean feat.

DVD Review (by Kristin Dreyer Kramer):
This found-footage superhero adventure may be full of surprises, but you won’t find a whole lot of surprises on the DVD’s special features menu. The disc’s collection of extras is pretty bare-bones, featuring just a handful of trailers and a couple of behind-the-scenes extras, like the Camera Test, which is simply four minutes of footage of the three guys hanging out at a diner—only with different actors.

For an interesting look at the filmmaking process, though, you might want to check out the Pre-Vis feature, which includes eight minutes of pre-vis footage—a basic kind of animated storyboard that shows how various scenes and stunts in the movie should eventually play out. Unfortunately, this feature doesn’t include any commentary—or any of the final footage for comparison—but it’s still worth skimming through, to get just a brief look at some of the prep work that went into making the film.

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