Text Box: dvdsleuth.com

Text Box:   


DVDSleuth.com is your source for daily DVD news and reviews.


Chronicle (2012)

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
DVD Released: 5/15/2012

All Ratings out of




Review by Mike Long, Posted on 5/22/2012

We've been talking lately about trends in movies and like so many things, trends can quickly die. The moviegoing public is very fickle (especially in America) and what is hot today, may be belittled tomorrow. Two trends which we've been seeing a lot of lately are superhero movies and "found footage" movies. While superhero movies are still going strong (just look at the numbers for The Avengers), some fans have begun to question the necessity for the proliferation of these films. Many felt that the "found footage" movement should have died in 1999 with The Blair Witch Project and the slew of zero-budget imitators which have come since have not helped this cause. So what are the odds of a movie which combines these two genres being successful?

As Chronicle opens, we meet Andrew (Dane DeHaan), a quiet, shy high-school student. Andrew's home-life is not good, as his mother (Bo Petersen) is terminally ill and his father (Michael Kelly) is abusive. Andrew buys a used video camera to document his father's abuse. Andrew's one friend is his cousin, Matt (Alex Russell). Matt is very smart, but has chosen to not participate in the social scene which is high-school. Despite this, he convinces Andrew to attend a party which is being held on the outskirts of town. Andrew reluctantly agrees and brings his camera. An odd hole in the ground is found near the party and Matt and fellow classmate Steve (Michael B. Jordan) decide to explore it, dragging Andrew along. Steve is the opposite of Andrew, as he's very outgoing and is running for class president. In the hole, the boys find a glowing object which renders them unconscious. Having no memory of how they got out of the hole, the boys soon discover that they are developing the ability to move things with their minds. Steve and Matt are good at it, but Andrew excels at it and begins to practice all the time. As this experimentation continues, the guys learn that they can do many extraordinary things, and this bond brings them closer together. While Andrew should be pleased, his life at home continues to deteriorate and this puts a strain on him which pushes him to the brink.

The lack of original ideas in movies is something which we've discussed many times in the past, and unfortunately, we don't get many new things in Chronicle. Again, the basic structure of the film is the tired superhero genre combined with the annoying "found footage" format. The story offers stereotypical teenaged angst, combined with a traditional Machiavellian tale. How many times have we seen a movie where a teenaged outcast is teased to the point that he explodes? No, there's nothing very new in Chronicle.

So major kudos to writer Max Landis (son of John) and director Josh Trank for combining these elements into something satisfying. Like a master chef they have taken seemingly dull ingredient and created a recipe that is exciting and feels very fresh and new at times. The trouble with any "found footage" movie is the "Why would they be shooting that?" issue. Chronicle deftly side-steps this with the ingenious notion that Andrew wants to document the abuse which then morphs into the idea that the boys want to capture their powers on video. The story moves along at nice pace which is very organic. As one would expect, the boys keep the power to themselves at first, but Landis throws in a very sly curve here. These are teenaged boys, who don't always make the best decisions, and Steve isn't one to hide things, so they do bring their skills out into public at one point. The second half of the movie brings in some nice twists which are genuinely surprising and the finale is exciting. The only issue I have with the story is there's very little surprise when Andrew snaps. This aspect of the movie was too predictable, as it's set up from the opening scene.

As for the photography, for the most part, Trank avoids the nausea-inducing shots seen in many of these films. The very creative way in which the camera is handled once the boys get their powers (which I won't give away) helps to limit the "shaky cam" hand-held aspect of the genre and make some scenes look more like a traditional movie. Are there some scenes which still suffer from the "Why would the video that?" issue? Of course, there are, but the way in which the film is shot and the use of multiple video sources (not just Andrew's camera) helps to keep our minds off of this. It's also interesting to note that the beginning of the film doesn't contain any on-screen message explaining where the footage came from. (If you've ever ridden the motion simulator rides at Universal Studios, one scene in the finale will make you feel as if you are on one of these attractions.)

Chronicle isn't perfect, but it definitely shows that creativity and spirit can win out over seemingly dead ideas. The movie is exciting, the characters are endearing, and there are just enough new notions in here to make us forget that we've seen things like this before. The movie also earns points for keeping the emotional content of the movie as realistic as possible while addressing science-fiction notions. Trank and Landis have created a minor-masterpiece with Chronicle, but now the question is raised -- Is this movie going to create a new trend?

Chronicle sidesteps any questions about thin air on DVD courtesy of 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image is sharp and clear, showing on intrusive grain and no defects from the source material. Being a "found footage" film, we get some shots which are too dark and some which feature interference, but these are independent of the transfer. The level of detail is good and the colors look fine. Other than some blurring at times, the image is stable. The DVD carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. Chronicle offers a wealth of great audio effects, from the subwoofer shaking explosions to the "whoosh" as things fly by on-screen. These effects are nicely detailed and never overpower the dialogue.

The Chronicle DVD contains only a few extras. "Pre-viz" (8 minutes) shows us how the filmmakers use somewhat crude computer animation to plan scenes. We get two scenes here -- a shorter one and then most of the finale. It's interesting to see that they apparently wanted to use Seattle's famous Public Market in the finale, but this didn't make it into the film. "Camera Test" (4 minutes) shows us two scenes where presumably the ability to incorporate visual effects into the handheld look of the film was being tested. The three actors appearing here are not the ones which appear in the film and it's interesting to note that both here and in the Pre-viz, Steve is white. The final extra is a THEATRICAL TRAILER for the film.

Review Copyright 2012 by Mike Long