Chronicle: The World’s First Found-Footage Superhero Movie Is Set in Seattle

Frankly, it’s shocking that nobody has made a found-footage superhero film before now. Both genres have experienced an explosion in recent years, and the low-budget aesthetic of found-footage narratives (the classic example is The Blair Witch Project, the most recent is the Paranormal Activity series) makes the requisite special effects of a superhero movie much more affordable. Someone finally did the math, and about, say, two years later than expected, we have Chronicle, a found-footage movie about three teenage Seattle boys who gain superpowers after discovering a mysterious glowing subterranean artifact.

The bad news is that Chronicle drops the ball on the found-footage front. The trick of these sorts of movies is that the narrative has to explain why all the relevant events ended up on camera; the second half of Chronicle violates that rule in a major way. The good news, which is far more important than the bad news, is that Chronicle is a fun, riveting superhero flick.

The movie embraces the superhero formula as it begins: We meet a shy young man named Andrew (Dane DeHaan), who arms himself with a video camera to document the abuse he suffers every day, from both his alcoholic father and the popular kids at his high school. Soon enough, thanks to the urging of his bolder, more popular cousin, Matt (Alex Russell), and the most popular guy in school (played by Michael B. Jordan), the three are spelunking around a cavern and accidentally gaining telekinetic powers.

Thankfully, not much attention is paid to the whys and hows of the superpowers. We’re instead dropped into a series of scenes in which the boys mess around with their new abilities, exulting in the sheer joy of discovery. The special effects are seamless; complaints about the emptiness of CGI imagery seem silly after watching these judiciously applied effects. (The worst ones are devoted to the simple task of faking the film’s Seattle setting—don’t go expecting to see our city immortalized onscreen; the only things they get halfway right are the Space Needle, a reference to Madison Street, and a single you-are-now-entering-King-County sign.)

Things start to fall apart, and superhero personality clichés are tested to—and past—the breaking point. The final battle feels a bit hoary, if you’ve spent any amount of time reading comics. But Chronicle concludes with an appropriate amount of bombast, given that there are some expectations every superhero movie has to meet. There’s enough inventiveness and energy packed into the 83-minute run time that by the time the credits roll, you’re grateful for the refreshing ground-level view of such familiar sights. recommended

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Comments (14) RSS

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Hell no, the didn't have have to narrate why the camera was there, the main character made it clear that from now on he was gonna film everything.
Posted by King Nathi on January 4, 2013 at 11:40 AM · Report this
Knat 13
For those interested, Max Landis (the screenwriter) did an "Ask Me Anything" session on Reddit about the movie.
Posted by Knat on February 7, 2012 at 11:16 AM · Report this
Gordon Werner 12
@10 ... yes, but it was not a "found footage super hero movie"
Posted by Gordon Werner on February 7, 2012 at 9:34 AM · Report this
Far better than expected - here's the BNR review:…
Posted by BlackmannRobin on February 6, 2012 at 9:19 PM · Report this
sjohnston 10
Wasn't Cloverfield a found footage action movie?
Posted by sjohnston on February 6, 2012 at 12:47 PM · Report this
Knat 9
The Akira reference is right on. The climax even features the bad guy wearing bandages and a hospital gown, and during that sequence he even yells, "Leave me alone!" as he telekinetically throws all his antagonists back.

I'd put money down that this will be better received than the Akira remake Hollywood is currently working on. The only negative remark I had after leaving the theatre (except for a couple so-so compositing shots) was that I wished it was longer.
Posted by Knat on February 6, 2012 at 12:06 AM · Report this
Just out of curiosity, how does the second half of the film violate the found footage premise? (Possible minor spoilers ahead) Throughout the movie they switch perspectives to other cameras whenever they present themselves, like the girl video blogger, or security camera footage. It would stand to reason that when a major battle breaks out in downtown Seattle, there would be countless new sources of video from which to glean. If anything, I felt like Andrew's propensity to "float" the camera behind himself was a bit of a cop-out... but not outside the reality of the movie, and that was used throughout the film. Really the only camera I saw being a stretch was the police camera in the hospital room... and even that isn't used for very long.
Posted by UNPAID COMMENTER on February 5, 2012 at 8:55 PM · Report this
@3: Isn't that "The Covenant"?
Posted by Drew2u on February 5, 2012 at 10:38 AM · Report this
This movie may have contained my favorite superpowers fight on film (minus animated). @2 is right on with the Akira reference.
Posted by sisyphusgal on February 4, 2012 at 4:56 PM · Report this

Gee, I wonder what would happen if someone found Simon's vlog files on Misfits.
Posted by Daniel J on February 4, 2012 at 10:23 AM · Report this
Looks like a bite off the TV show Misfits, but no Nathan.
Posted by superjivus on February 4, 2012 at 8:11 AM · Report this
stirwise 3
This looked like a boys' version of the Craft from the preview. I can't decide if that's a good thing or a bad thing.
Posted by stirwise on February 3, 2012 at 10:14 PM · Report this
Joe Szilagyi 2
We saw Chronicle tonight. Best live action Akira film we will EVER see.

Seriously: every yell of Andrew = TETSUOOOOO.
Posted by Joe Szilagyi on February 3, 2012 at 9:38 PM · Report this
Watch Marble Hornets sometime. It's on the Youtubes. You might like it.
Posted by totheark on February 3, 2012 at 9:29 PM · Report this

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