Coming off as a kind of cross between District 9 and Akira, Chronicle is a superhero movie that sets its sights high but doesn’t have a strong enough script to get airborne.
As readers may have noticed, I’m quite a big fan of the found footage genre. Despite the occasional misfire like Diary of the Dead, I’m usually very happy with the results of the gimmick. Chronicle is the latest in a long line, though possibly the first to dabble in the superhero genre. As with many films of its ilk, the characters have to work hard to give us a reason as to why they’re filming everything, and Chronicle succeeds at this to only a limited extent. Despite this, it does come up with some nifty ways to shoot found footage without having the camera constantly shaking about erratically.
The story concerns three high school boys who acquire superpowers, and I don’t really feel the need to elucidate on the plot any further than that. There are rivalries and love interests, but for the most part that’s all you need to know. The first 25 minutes or so feel like a visual effects demo reel. It’s just shot after shot of kids trying out their powers, and begins to border on pointlessness. Then sh*t starts to get serious, which should be a good thing, except for the fact that it highlights more strongly the weakness of the script.
Basically, it’s like this: if someone showed me the synopsis of Chronicle, I’d be wondrously supportive. It’s a great idea, and the overall narrative arc makes a lot of sense. It’s the dialogue itself that’s clunky and ham-fisted, and above all too unbelievable for a found footage movie. The script advances the story in a slipshod rather than organic fashion. Our trio of young actors get the job done, but only at, say, the level of someone performing in a remake of an 80s horror movie. In other words, don’t expect to be wowed by a cinematic debut equal to Sharlto Copley’s turn in District 9.
The visual effects are disappointing also. It’s as if the budget couldn’t match the filmmakers’ ambition, so we’re subjected to crappy CGI and poor digital matte paintings again and again. I appreciate that the film had a tiny budget of $15 million, but that simply means they should have been more choosy when it came to visual effects shots. If there’d been better effects and fewer of them, the result would have been superior.
All in all, Chronicle is quite a letdown. If only some rewrites had been attempted on the screenplay then it would have been a corker of a film.Rating: