How many times have you seen a movie that pretends it’s made up of film that was lost in some horrific accident? How many times have you walked out of the film disappointed?
That’s likely what you’ll feel after seeing Chronicle, which happens to be written by legendary director John Landis’ (Animal House, Blues Brothers) son, Max Landis. The difference with Chronicle is that it isn’t a found footage movie about ghosts or exorcisms or aliens from space, it’s about a group of teenagers that become superheroes.
See, there’s this kid Andrew that comes from a broken home. His mom is dying and his father is an alcoholic that beats him. Oh, and he has no friends and people mock him at school. So, he decides to record everything on a camera. I suppose if he’s capturing everything, people are less likely to start with him.
One day, Andrew and his cousin meet up with the most popular guy in school. The three of them find a hole in the ground and boom – they get powers. The movie goes through them learning about their powers, and how they have to learn to use them and build up their powers like muscles. It all works really well. It’s interesting, the characters feel real and it’s just fun watching them play around.
But then it all goes wrong. Why? Because we’re introduced to this girl, who’s basically a plot device. She’s a blogger you see, so she records everything in sight too. That’s fine, whatever floats your boat. Except that the movie cuts to her view for no reason. HUH? Isn’t this a found footage movie? Why are we jumping from Andrew’s camera to this girl’s camera? Did someone get both cameras and take the film? No?
It gets worse though, near the end of the movie the audience jumps between every camera in the city. Security cameras, random peoples’ digital cameras, cell phones, police cameras, news copters, whatever. Everything that has a lens becomes our eye. This absolutely takes you out of the film. It makes no sense, really. Why are we flying between all these cameras? Can we just shoot this as a regular movie?
Well, no. There are sequences in here that really work in found footage form. There’s a flying sequence, when they fall into that hole, when they’re playing pranks, it all works beautifully. Then it seemed like the filmmakers didn’t know how to realistically keep the characters holding the camera so they kind of abandoned it.
It would have really helped if there was another character that served as our eyes, rather than the main three. Because what’s here isn’t bad at all. The story is fun and exciting, even though it’s essentially the anime Akira, the characters are good and the special effects are awesome, despite the film’s $15 million budget. There’s a lot to like here, it’s just too bad that the second half of the film and the jumping around to different cameras distracts the hell out of you.
The movie is basically about the characters not knowing how to be responsible with these new powers they have. And it’s funny, cause it seems that the filmmakers didn’t know how to be responsible with the gimmick they used, despite the strong material they had to work with. I will give them kudos for trying it a different way, and even mocking found footage within the film, but it ultimately distracts you from what a great movie it could have been. Luckily, the movie is filled with young talent that we’ll be seeing plenty more of, especially since the film won the box office.