By: Mark Julian
The Chronicle marketing machine started off with a collective sigh from the masses, "Not another found-footage movie", they cried. Like many, that was also my first reaction to the trailer for Josh Trank's take on the polarizing genre. Face it. What was once a novelty has now become common place and the film industry now pumps out just as many found footage movies as remakes. Because of public distaste, Chronicle starts behind the 8-ball. The usual suspects in the movie-critic world were heading into advanced screenings for Chronicle with trepidation. Surprisingly, they emerged with nothing but praise for the movie and really spearheaded public interest. How could a movie that combines two of the most over-saturated film genre's in Hollywood possibly be any good? Plainly stated, it shine's in it's naturalistic portrayal of an outcast teen and how he copes with his decaying everyday surroundings but suddenly, inexplicably is given the ability to completely reverse his fortunes. I say the film has a natural feel because Trank doesn't beat you over the head with psychological overtures, instead the aforementioned theme plays out in the background of a rapidly moving picture about a lonely, outcast teenager. The film progresses in such a way that the smart moviegoer will almost certainly pick up on the subliminal messages while those with their thinking-cap turned off can simply enjoy the spectacle of high school teenagers flying and moving objects with their mind. Also present, are standard movie themes of social awkwardness, the corrupting influence of power, high school popularity/angst/naivety, and an abusive father. However, Trank doesn't attempt to direct a message about any of these themes, he simply lets them unfold and leaves it to the audience to draw their own conclusions.
The acting talent assembled is phenomenal. Michael B. Jordan, Dane DeHaan, and Alex Russell all turn in fine performances. It also helps that the script from Max Landis really captures the idiosyncrasies of teenage society. However, Dane DeHaan is will definitely be the breakout star of this picture. Unquestionably, it was a smart decision by 20th Century Fox to go with unknowns as that further allows the audience to immerse themselves in the movie. Any name-recognized actor would completely undermine the film's realism and remind audiences that you're in the theater watching a film. Not saying it wouldn't be possible for a Liam Hemsworth or Garrett Hedlund to star, it just would've taken a lot more effort to achieve the same effect.
My only detraction from the movie was the father-son relationship between DeHaan and Michael Kelly. At times, it was very heavy-handed and contrived in such a way to obviously move the plot forward. Still it's a minor annoyance in an otherwise, stellar film.
As for the Akira comparison, I personally feel that's a very superficial assessment. Yes, both movies posses a beta-male teenager given telekinetic powers who subsequently goes on a power trip but that's where the similarities end. At it's heart, Akira is a movie that's about the relationship between two friends, and while that theme is present in Chronicle, it's not the main ingredient. Chronicle is DeHaan's story to tell from start to finish.
As for the Fantastic Four reboot rumors surrounding Trank, I think he definitely deserves a shot after his wonderful cinematic debut. Fox may have a serious talent on their hands and at this point, it'll be hard to obstruct Trank from any path he wishes to venture down. While the box-office will understandably be slow due to the Super Bowl, don't be surprised if Chronicle is the #1 movie next weekend as well. One thing I think is apparent from Chronicle is that Trank has a talent for crafting a film through the lens of a specific, individual character. So if your hoping for that Fantastic Four movie told through the eyes of Reed Richards, then Trank might be your man.
Chronicle is a film that will appeal to almost any moviegoer and even warrants a repeat watch as there are reportedly little nuances that will become apparent upon a second viewing [I'll definitely be watching again to see if I pick up on anything]. It's a film that will definitely lead to a lively debate with your movie companions as you leave the theater and that's about as good as any movie can hope for.