Posted: July 13, 2012

The beginning of a new genre?

Josh Trank deserves a golden star for creating a found footage film that, for once, doesn’t make the viewer groggily regret purchasing the fourteen dollar popcorn they’re about to vomit.

And while we’re at it, give him another star in order to accommodate for his directorial debut feature film, Chronicle; it’s a movie with a story that we’ve all heard, but one that does it with clever cinematography and emotion that would not be possible if done in the standard film-making format.

Chronicle, released on DVD May 15, not only held itself as a well-constructed, sci-fi action flick, but it’s one that may be the catalyst that transforms the found-footage technique from a once horror-based genre into one that can expand into several other story categories.

Chronicle depicts three completely different teenage boys who become unlikely friends. After their exposure to an unexplained, alien-esque glowing rock, Andrew (Dane DeHaan), Matt (Alex Russell), and Steve (Michael B. Jordan) find themselves with telekinetic powers – ones that allow them to move objects at will and even fly. As time passes they become stronger and stronger, and it soon becomes clear to them that they can use their powers for more than just their own amusement. But if you were thinking this was a standard superhero movie from here on out, that’s when the typical angst teenage drama unfolds.

Had this been an every day do-gooder movie, it would’ve crumbled away with every other movie of its kind. The reason Chronicle was able to keep the audience’s attention was because it showed what a normal adolescent would probably do if he found out he could use telekinesis – playfully scare innocent bystanders, convey pranks that the average person would never do, and win popularity through the use of your newly found powers. And it’s this greed that eventually tumbles into a downward spiral for each of the characters, adding plot twists, character development and tragedy that isn’t seen enough in today’s cinema.

However, this is when Chronicle also has the simple drawbacks we see time and time again. We as the audience are bludgeoned with teenager stereotypes (e.g, raves, alcohol parties, bullying) and the fact that the main character’s mother is sick and his dad is an abusive drunk. When it came to clichés, Chronicle was able to weed out a lot of them, but also found itself crashing into some of the most prominent ones in cinema.

Found-footage is a hard genre to pull off, the reason being that many question both its quality and the idea that it’s not a necessity. Vouching for the genre can be hard, but Chronicle comes across as a film that shows its credibility and imagination through its cinematography. Handheld film-making is not only a novelty for the standard movie-goer, but it also lets the audience see the world of the film through any character’s eye, which is important when it comes to the construction of important story factors like the maturation of characters and the vehemence of turning events.

It was impressive, it was a delicious treat to a hopefully new class of film, and it held strong to the end credits. Chronicle, while shaky at some points (though thankfully not when it came to its camera), proved to the world that sci-fi action can be born from several genres, and still be wildly entertaining.

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