BLU-RAY REVIEW: Chronicle
Director Josh Trank's "found footage" super hero film hits home video...
Be sure to enter the Chronicle DVD Giveaway for your chance to take home Chronicle on DVD, a prize valued at $29.98.
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The “found footage” film genre, which essentially began nearly 30 years ago but only found major popularity after 1999′s The Blair Witch Project has, over the last few years, flourished. However, films such as the Paranormal Activity series, [REC], Quarantine, and The Last Exorcism have helped make it a seemingly “horror only” genre. Of course, 2008′s Monster and Cloverfield – which opened the same week – helped expand the genre to include sci-fi. Now, with Chronicle, director Josh Trank expands the genre even further to create an engaging and tragic super hero tale featuring teenage bullying, hope, loneliness, and angst.
Chronicle follows three different, recognizable high school characters: Andrew Detmer (a captivating Dane DeHaan), whose mother lay dying of cancer and whose jobless, alcoholic father abuses him; Matt Garetty (Alex Russell), Andrew’s cousin and lone friend who spouts philosophy and acts blasé; and Steve Montgomery (Michael B. Jordan), the most popular athlete at school who’s looking to pursue politics after graduation. However, once the trio’s lives are forever altered upon their exposure to an unidentified object they find underground at a party, the character types change drastically as does the film’s story.
As a fan of comics and film, I have to think Chronicle explores what Peter Parker of Spider-man fame would do were he given super powers today and not as a responsible and seemingly noble adolescent role model developed and designed to fit into the 1960s. It’s tough to argue that today’s teens, when compared to teens 50 years ago, aren’t better informed than teens 50 years ago, simply due to modern technology. Of course, that doesn’t mean they’re more mature or moral. In fact, if anything, they’re more immature and more morally ambiguous. Thus, when these three young men gain unimaginable powers, it’s less Spider-man’s motto “with great power comes great responsibility” and more “with great power comes great opportunity.” Of course, this “opportunity” soon allows the high schoolers to play ridiculous practical jokes which progress until, when unchecked, cause unintentional – and eventually, intentional – harm and misfortune.
There's an old saying "good initiative, bad judgement." For most American teens today, this is a daily reality. However, for some teens - victims of abuse, bullying, sarcasm and hate - initiative is unavailable and judgement is impaired. Chronicle provides an all too personal look at the life of one such young man, Andrew, who as the victim of domestic violence and bullying, begins to assert himself once his new found super human powers develop. Bullying and abuse are an all-too-real fact of life for hundreds of thousands of youth and teens in America today and one can only imagine what these victims would do were they given the power to stomp out their abusers. While I'd like to think morally they'd understand the need to halt the hate, it's unfortunately more likely they'd follow in the foot prints of Andrew. So what happens when a bullied teen with self-esteem issues gains super human powers? When the victim becomes the bully and the bully has the power of telekinesis, the sky is literally the limit as to what he's willing and able to do.
The film's video - as "found footage" - ranges intentionally from static and garbled (shot on Andrew's cassette recorder) to clear and gorgeous (once he upgrades to a handheld digital camera). The 1080p video transfer captures the gloom and doom of the film's Seattle setting perfectly with overcast dark grays and blues featuring fine contrast and little blurring. Likewise, the disc's lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track - while maybe not "film footage" accurate - is impressive. Thought light on any real soundtrack (outside of parties or dances), the sound designers and editors fill the film with dynamic noise; everything from a football cutting the air at 3,000 feet to the crunch of metal as a car is crushed comes through clear and precise with dialogue easy to understand as well. Overall, the film's video and audio are well above average.
This two-disc set delivers the standard version of the film on both blu-ray and DVD as well as a "Director's Cut" which features approx. 6 additional minutes of footage. A film like Chronicle is worthy of an assortment of special features. Fans of the genre and this film in particular would hope for the opportunity to hear cast and crew commentary along with a detailed "making of" style featurette. Unfortunately, none of that is included here. What is featured includes a disappointing single deleted scene, 8 minutes of CGI effects, a few test shots of a single scene, the film's theatrical trailer, and a number of "Coming Soon" trailers. Again, majorly disappointing.
At its core, Chronicle is a mutated morality play with hints of action, suspense, and humor throughout. Chronicle provides the "found footage" genre with its first real original story since 2008's Monster and Cloverfield sci-fi entries. Instead of the stereotypical horror movie, we're graced with something that's all together unique, yet recognizable. We know these teens, we feel for these teens, at times we even want to be these teens. But, once Andrew begins to use his powers maliciously, we begin to question ourselves. Who do we prefer and who's more realistic: the naive, polite, and moral Peter Parker from 1964 or the intelligent, victimized, and morally ambiguous Andrew Detmer from 2012?
While Chronicle didn't win any major awards nor did it rank on many critic's top 10 lists for 2011, it's a film well worth watching, especially for older teens and those who work with or have teens in their homes. The film's message is all too clear and all too real to ignore.
Chronicle is rated PG-13 for intense action and violence, thematic material, some language, sexual content and teen drinking and is available now wherever fine home video is sold.
Be sure to enter our Chronicle DVD Giveaway for your chance to take home Chronicle on DVD!
- Jess C. Horsley