Found-Footage Fanboy Film ‘Chronicle’ is Aimlessly Lost

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Average: 3.2 (26 votes) Oscarman rating: 2.0/5.0
Rating: 2.0/5.0

CHICAGO – “Chronicle,” which stars blah, blah and blah with a special appearance by blah (you wouldn’t know these unknowns any way), is the latest found-footage film to find itself lost, lacking purpose and devoid of a cohesive plot. This film’s fanboy ejaculate loves you short time as it spews the buildup of what could be interpreted as a “story” and ultimately ends without one.

We can forgivingly leave to moviemaking mystery how a few kids develop superhero telekinesis from a weakly scripted, inexplicable, underground rock formation from which our story never returns to explore. But we cannot excuse a story that lacks a true protagonist, antagonist and an overall plot in exchange for three kids simply running around aimlessly and experimenting with their newfound power.

Alex Russell in Chronicle
During a fierce battle above the streets of Seattle, the telekinetically gifted Matt (Alex Russell)
has a close encounter with an airborne bus.
Image credit: CGFactory, 20th Century Fox

Even if you enjoy this special-effects joyride with a cast of new actors you won’t know, you’ll be hard pressed to think back lovingly about this film without questioning the point of it all. Dane DeHaan as Andrew Detmer, I suppose, emerges as the antagonist among three friends as he illogically climaxes the film by embracing a silly, messy and poorly inked dark side.

All the while, Alex Russell as Matt Garetty tries to stop Andrew’s bout of pointless rage and tie up the film’s loose ends by, you know, “using his power for good”. Michael B. Jordan as Steve Montgomery, who doesn’t play basketball and didn’t even talk to Andrew before he was joined with him through shared telekinesis, is the third-wheel friend. Steve’s role is to bring consequence and reality to the cloud nine these boys briefly float on – by dying the tragic death.

Dane DeHaan in Chronicle
Andrew (Dane DeHaan) succumbs to his darker nature as his telekinetic powers become stronger.
Image credit: Alan Markfield, 20th Century Fox

“Chronicle” is the latest found-footage, shaky-camera fad film in a string of many prior to it including the wildly successful and profitable “Paranormal Activity” films (now four of them in total), 2010’s “The Last Exorcism,” 2008’s “Cloverfield” and 1999’s “The Blair Witch Project”. While this one’s more of an homage to the superhero fanboy, much of its footage comes from the character’s shaky cameras rather than the filmmaker himself.

Debut movie director Josh Trank and writer Max Landis – who’s done nothing of note – showcase their inexperience loudly and clearly. This entirely raw cast – coupled with a just-out-of-the-womb director and an uneven writer – take a glimmer of hope and extinguish it by failing on the follow through. While Trank manipulates his actors’ found footage from their own random musings into a director’s new context, the whole body of work ends up being half the story it needed.

Alex Russell, Michael B. Jordan and Dane DeHaan in Chronicle
Inside a cave, Matt (Alex Russell, left), Steve (Michael B. Jordan, middle) and Andrew (Dane DeHaan, right)
make a discovery that will change their lives.
Image credit: Alan Markfield, 20th Century Fox

This isn’t a documentary nor is it a compilation or stock-footage film. “Chronicle” truly does chronicle the experience of these three guys in a found-footage fashion, but their director and writer ultimately fail them by not sealing the whole deal. The film feels as if the character footage has more control over the filmmaker instead of the filmmaker successfully leading the charge with a clear vision.

Oftentimes films that flop feel too long. They receive widespread criticism because they drag and needed cutting in the editing room. This time, “Chronicle” is actually too short. The feature-length film clocks in at a mere 83 minutes and its missing 37 minutes are noticeably absent. Bringing it to two hours could have filled in many of its holes, tightened up its unevenness and built more of an emotional connection to these characters. Left to their own devices, they merely gobble around like headless chickens.

While you might recognize Michael Kelly (Andrew’s father, Richard) from “The Adjustment Bureau,” “Dawn of the Dead” or “The Sopranos,” Richard’s acute angst toward Andrew is unsubstantiated. Instead of convincingly building a story around the dysfunctional nature of this father/son relationship while the mother is dying of cancer, you don’t feel sorrow or pity for either of them. You just feel numb to their relationship because of its lacking reasons.

Dane DeHaan in Chronicle
Andrew (Dane DeHaan) succumbs to his darker nature as his telekinetic powers become stronger.
Image credit: Alan Markfield, 20th Century Fox

As an actor, Dane DeHaan emerges as the one to watch. This isn’t merely because he’s given the most screen time or he’s the film’s primary whack job and source of tension. This kid could be the new Michael Cera. He’s got the geek thing down pat. He can play the innocent boy and the good guy. He tries to 180 into the nefarious villain and we see sparks of him going there. Next time, his devil will need to emerge much more reprehensible over his primary angel.

Star More reviews from Adam Fendelman.

But watch for him in a starring role in 2012’s “Jack and Diane” with Jena Malone and Juno Temple because he could have Hollywood legs. DeHaan will also appear in 2012’s “Wettest County” with Tom Hardy, Shia LaBeouf and Guy Pearce; 2012’s “The Place Beyond the Pines” with Ryan Gosling, Bradley Cooper and Rose Byrne; and 2013’s “Kill Your Darlings” with Daniel Radcliffe, Elizabeth Olsen and Michael C. Hall.

Warning: On a scale of 1 to 10 for motion sickness, this shaky-camera film is a 10. I was seconds from puking or tackling anyone with Dramamine.

“Chronicle” stars Dane DeHaan, Alex Russell, Michael B. Jordan, Michael Kelly, Ashley Hinshaw, Bo Petersen, Anna Wood, Rudi Malcolm, Luke Tyler, Crystal-Donna Roberts, Adrian Collins, Grant Powell, Armand Aucamp, Nicole Bailey and Lynita Crofford from director Josh Trank and writer Max Landis. The film is rated “PG-13” for intense action and violence, thematic material, some language, sexual content and teen drinking. “Chronicle,” which has a running time of 83 minutes, opened on Feb. 3, 2012. publisher Adam Fendelman


© 2012 Adam Fendelman, LLC

TAB's picture

watch your word pictures

This film’s fanboy ejaculate loves you short time as it spews the buildup of what could be interpreted as a “story” and ultimately ends without one.”

I haven’t seen the movie yet, but i have one request.

Could you be a little bit less…disgusting in your word pictures? Gracias amigo.

Jonathan R.'s picture

You hit my gripe

While I dislike your language and spoilers in review, you seem to be the only one really hitting my gripe with this movie. Seriously, what was the point of all that thing I just watched?

Aaron E's picture

For entertainment. Want a

For entertainment. Want a really in-depth story? They are called books.

Movies are entertaining distractions. Too many people have what I call “The Grey hate,” inspired by the recent movie or “3:10 to Yuma anger.” They were entertained, it was everything they were given in previews and then… Wait, that is how it ends? No, I wanted everything wrapped up nice and neat. They tell the story of what happened. That’s how it happened and you’re supposed to imagine it happening that way. Do you get mad at the news for not being wrapped up the way you want?

Josh H's picture

It’s a coming of age,

It’s a coming of age, outcast story that slowly develops into how easy it is to be overwhelmed with power if you have never had it. It’s a cautionary tale that simply takes the line with great power comes great responsibility to a fuller understanding.

Jonathan R.'s picture

I don’t think that really

I don’t think that really clears its name. Yes, it’s kind of a coming of age story, though it doesn’t seem to have anything meaningful to say there given that those coming of age are kind of different and are growing to a world that is again quite different. Also “with great power comes great responsibility” is not really a movie. I mean, think for a moment what that means, and I believe you will find that aside from a reprimand to a guy who is actually good at heart, it doesn’t mean much. When you try to translate it here it can only come across as “people that can do destructive things can do destructive things.” Great. We got that when the writers gave him the ability to do destructive things. That’s not a movie, it’s part of the setting. If your thought is that that was all the movie was about, then I consider my view point proven.

Jeffery A's picture

This is pretty much how I

This is pretty much how I feel for the movie… All the constant scenes of using powers to move the camera around was also a large chunk of the movie that was quite pointless… They never had any story progression, and only a few times did they have dialog. They were simply filler to take up more film time; it’s one thing to show how their powers are growing, but once it’s established, it isn’t necessary to keep showing it every 10min for a 3-5min chunk at a time…

And most of the action oriented scenes were diminished with the “found footage style”. The falling out of the sky scene, only getting to see an image of a jacket covering the camera… The fight in Seattle, only getting footage jumping from street camera to phone camera, with much of the main characters emotions and expressions unvisuallized…

The story ends unfinished; with nothing explained in the end, and not even really a moral or lesson to take from it… What… “Don’t stay friends with superpowered people?” The film doesn’t even answer any questions it brings up, and for the majority of the events, the film is very predictable… (especially being that most of the twists/interesting events are spoiled by the trailer itself)…

Todd G's picture

Im confused by some of you

Im confused by some of you guys… I went into this movie knowing that I was going to get exactly what the trailer portrayed it as. If any of you expected to get answers in this movie then you clearly have not watched enough film.

Aaron E's picture

Agreed, and it doesn’t end

Agreed, and it doesn’t end unfinished at all. The remaining character goes and does whatever he does for the rest of his life and has forgiven his cousin. The end, that is how the story of three kids getting powers in Seattle ended. Maybe they were hoping for a more global approach.

Mike G's picture

Although I have never had a

Although I have never had a ‘favorite critic’ this review has given me one.

Tyler M's picture

Isn’t it enough for any of

Isn’t it enough for any of you that maybe this film just told the exact story it was supposed to tell?

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