Releasing Studio: 20th Century Fox
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Disc/Transfer Information: Widescreen 1.85:1; Region 1 (U.S.) Release
Tested Audio Track: English Dolby Digital 5.1
Director: Josh Trank
Starring Cast: Dane DeHaan, Alex Russell, Michael B. Jordan
WHAT ARE YOU CAPABLE OF?
I really wanted to like this. Even though I was aware of the pre-release rumors regarding the film being like Superman meets Dawson’s Creek and Twilight, and that once again we’d have to put up with high schoolers that no one really gives a rat’s behind about, I still was intrigued based on press junket feedback from some folks I know as well as the promotional pieces and general public feedback. The notion seemed intriguing enough, and apparently born of the comic superhero adaptations Hollywood has cashed in on since the first Spider-Man: Some ordinary kids gain superhuman powers of some kind that allow them to manipulate objects in a telekinetic-type fashion, eventually leading to their evolved ability to fly. However, in this case, the kids don’t grow up to form the “Fantastic 4” or vow to fight some hostile counterparts with similar powers – they instead tap into some dark regions of their minds and what appeared to be exciting fight sequences ensued.
The end result was hardly as satisfying. I know I am in the massive minority here, by a long shot, as based on all the unbelievably and nearly overwhelming positive feedback Chronicle has received since its launch. I just didn’t see what all the hoopla was about; the basic premise is there, filmed in that bordering-on-annoying-now handheld camera perspective a la Cloverfield, Paranormal Activity, Blair Witch and The Devil Inside, seen through the eyes of a Seattle high school kid that’s not only bullied in school, but is physically abused by his father. With his mother dying of cancer, the boy videotapes his life, eventually leading to the attendance of a rave party with his cousin in which he meets one of his cousin’s friends, an African-American kid that seems to be the nicest one of them all in terms of picking on the main character. The boys discover a strange hole in the ground behind the rave that appears to lead to chambers below the earth, and when they descend down to investigate – stupidly – they come across weird lights and machines, apparently of some kind of alien origin. As we watch through the blocky, interrupted video of the main character’s camera, it’s clear something has “attacked” the boys down there through the machines or lights, and then the action shifts to the following days – we’re lead to believe the kids made it out of the hole unharmed…but definitely not the same.
As Chronicle proceeds, the main character’s video camera captures newly found abilities within each of the three high school kids – they apparently, since their “contact” with the strange things below the ground, can use their minds to throw objects around and move heavy things like cars. Over the next couple of days, or weeks, the boys use the powers to play harmless pranks on people around them – moving a woman’s car in a parking lot so she doesn’t know where it is when she returns, blowing up the miniskirts of fellow female students to see what color panties they’re wearing, etc. – until one fateful day when some pickup truck-driving idiot zooms up behind their car and tailgates them, and our main character uses his mental powers to throw the truck off the road and down a hill, nearly killing the driver. The boys make a pact that as their powers strengthen and develop – which they’ve been doing – they can no longer use them without considering the outcome.
Eventually, their powers evolve to the point they can actually fly – the video camera captures the three of them at the edge of the clouds in the sky, blasting around and attempting to learn how to control their movements. After a confrontation that leads to a dreadful accident, the three boys become two, just the main character and his cousin. But something is slowly going wrong inside our main character…all his rage towards his father, the bullies in school, the frustrations about his mother’s medical condition are manifesting through this newfound power he has received from the strange alien hole in the ground. After displaying his abilities at a talent contest for his school and suddenly gaining all the attention he ever wanted from the female student body at an after-party, the kid spirals downward, using his abilities to try and steal money so he could buy his mother’s needed cancer medication (a sequence that involves his kicking the asses of some bullies that lived on his own block just before he robs them of their cash). When an explosion accident leaves him in the hospital, horribly burned, the kid is visited by his rotten father who blames him for the mother’s death, which occurred sometime when he was recovering. The kid suddenly wakes out of his coma and seeks revenge on society around him – beginning with his own abusive father, who has the unfortunate destiny of being his first victim, whom he throws out his hospital window while simultaneously blowing up the top level of the hospital.
His cousin, boasting the same powers, arrives to try and stop our main character that is now flying around Seattle in a hospital gown and burn unit bandages, wreaking havoc by using his powers to destroy buildings and kill cops and SWAT team members that have arrived to take down the strange, flying high school menace. Of course, a battle between the two ensues, as you could have guessed, but the overall effect and conclusion was beyond unsatisfying in my opinion. Also, we’re not quite sure exactly who is still holding the camera as this last sequence in the city unfolds – did the film suddenly go from camera perspective to simple first-person perspective (the audience)? Very haphazardly handled.
I truly expected more from Chronicle – there are additional elements to the concluding frames which I have not divulged here, and you can make your own assessment in terms of whether it tied things up or not; to me, the ending was idiotic and as gap-leaving as the nonsense that came before it.
VIDEO QUALITY ANALYSIS:
In a 1.85:1 transfer that filled my screen without letterboxing, Chronicle came from 20th Century Fox with a rather soft appearance; this isn’t to say there wasn’t detail when called upon, but I found, for the most part, that there was a DNR-like gauze to the main image. Close-ups of faces showed great detail, however, and black levels/shadow detail appeared solid.
AUDIO QUALITY ANALYSIS:
The main element I noticed on the Dolby Digital 5.1 track was a wallop of LFE – from start to finish, Chronicle provided a bass assault that got so heavy at certain points, I was tempted to go into my receiver’s setup menu and drop the sub’s calibration number. Overall, this was an aggressive, loud mix, with heavy use of the surround channels for wild panning (one great example was when the kids are flying around in the clouds, and the back-to-front panning and cue usage was simply startling) and, in general, a satisfying presence.
SUMMARY & RECOMMENDATIONS:
As I stated, this wasn’t what I expected. For an hour and a half of watching some kids fly around without much happening, eventually culminating with the main character zipping lazily through the Washington skies in a hospital gown…I don’t know; I feel like I could have done something better with my time. Chronicle is worth a rental though, if for nothing else but sheer curiosity about this title.