Tuesday, June 19, 2012


“I do think Chronicle goes in an interesting and somewhat unique direction with the super-powered teenager genre. It manages to realistically capture the emotional turmoil of being a teenager, while adding the element of telekinetic powers, which in the case of one of these teens is like putting out a fire with gasoline.”

Science Fiction, Action and Drama

Dane DeHaan/Andrew Detmer, Alex Russell/Matt Garetty, Michael B. Jordan/Steve Montgomery, Michael Kelly/Richard Detmer, Ashley Hinshaw/Casey Letter, Bo Petersen/Karen Detmer and Anna Wood/Monica

Director - Josh Trank

Writer - Max Landis

Rated PG-13 - intense action and violence, thematic material, some language, sexual content and teen drinking

1 hr., 29 min.

I am not a fan of “found footage” films, which I documented at some length in my review of Apollo 18 (2011) which I posted back in February of this year. There are only two films in the history of the genre that I have enjoyed: Cloverfield (2008) and Monsters (2010). I can now add Chronicle to this list of found footage films that I actually thought were well constructed and entertaining films.

Wisely, Chronicle focuses its story on three central characters. The principal character is Andrew Detmer, a high school student who is a loner and not popular with his fellow students. His home life is even worse. His mother is bedridden and is slowly dying of cancer. His father, who is on disability, spends his time drinking and verbally and even sometimes physically abusing Andrew. Andrew’s only real friend is his cousin Matt Garetty, who has recently been hanging out with the popular kids and been ignoring Andrew.

Andrew buys a used video camcorder and begins recording his daily life. Matt notices Andrew and his camera and hoping to coax Andrew out of his funk, invites him to a rave at his rich friend’s house. Andrew brings his camcorder to the party and immediately begins to get ridiculed by the other party goers. Matt rushes up to Andrew and tells him he has to come with him to “film” something with his camera. Steve Montgomery, a friend of Matt’s, is waiting outside a large hole in the ground and before Andrew realizes what is happening, the three of them are crawling in a tunnel underground where they find a large crystalline structure that is glowing. Steve touches it and is thrust halfway across the tunnel by some type of light wave of power. All three of them exit the cavern and don’t meet up until weeks later.

Seemingly by accident, the trio of teens discovers that they have telekinetic powers and begin using them on small objects like cards and baseballs. However, as they continue to experiment, they gradually learn that they can do quite a bit more with their abilities. As their powers grow stronger and more versatile, their temptation to abuse those powers also grows; leading them down a path that they seem unable to turn back from.

Teenagers with strange powers are nothing new to movies. What is different about Chronicle – other than the previously mentioned found footage style of shooting – is that it is portrayed very realistically. The powers that they get are developed slowly over time and with each new ability they discover that they possess, it takes them even more time to control those abilities, let alone master them. These are teenagers and they actually act like teenagers. In their first live test of their powers they go to a toy store and frighten some of the customers by levitating stuffed animals and hitting other teenagers with various items. While these guys are essentially your average teenage males and inherently not bad people, they just can’t help but use these powers to punk other people out. Quite a bit of time is spent with the three newly bonded friends sharing their new-found powers and gradually expanding on them to the point where one of them misuses that power (I’ll let you guess which one) and nearly kills some people by running them off the road. All these scenes build to a steady climax, where one of the teens must stop the other from destruction on a massive scale.

I did have a problem with the character of Andrew Detmer. I understand that we are meant to empathize with his multiple problems both at home and school, but it just seemed to me a bit overstated. While his mother’s cancer and his father’s drunken abuse never crosses the line into melodrama, it certainly comes exceedingly close. It might have been a little more realistic if his father was a least somewhat more sympathetic; or if perhaps his mother suffered a non-terminal illness. However, the story might not have had the same impact if these changes had been made.

I liked the story of Chronicle, but once again I feel like using the video tape “found footage” format really did the dramatic impact of this film a disservice. Because the film is made up of videotaped sequences, there are many, many jump-cuts that jarred me and took me out of the story. The best and most dynamic part of the film is the final confrontational scene between the two teens, where the filmmakers cleverly made use of security camera footage to show the action from multiple angles. This technique worked so well, it only emphasized to me the limits that the one-camera approach placed on the rest of the film.

I do think Chronicle goes in an interesting and somewhat unique direction with the super-powered teenager genre. It manages to realistically capture the emotional turmoil of being a teenager, while adding the element of telekinetic powers, which in the case of one of these teens is like putting out a fire with gasoline.

TECHNICAL: Acting – 8 Directing – 8 Cinematography – 7 Script – 8 Special Effects – 9
VISCERAL: Visual – 8 Auditory – 8 Intellectual – 8 Emotional – 9 Involvement – 9



  1. Good review Fritz. There isn’t much new or different this film is doing or saying but the format works perfectly and gets us inside the heads of these characters through all of the fun and not-so fun moments as well.

  2. Thanks, Dan O!

    While I don’t share your enthusiasm for the “single video camera” format, it did indeed help the filmmakers get inside the head of the characters. I still maintain that a conventional multi-camera/edited format would have driven home the dramatic impact of these characters even better.

    The early scenes where the telekinetic trio are first learning about their abilities are the most fun and certainly the most engaging part of the Chronicle. The film takes a dark turn in the final third of the film and all the fun disappears from there on. Still, the final battle sequence is one of the best of this type on film and an incredible technical accomplishment, particularly considering the lower budget of Chronicle.