Three Seattle teenagers develop super powers and do wonderful things with them, like scaring little girls and playing practical jokes on unsuspecting strangers, in the entertaining but far from great sci-fi action film Chronicle. Oh, and one gets corrupted by his newfound powers and takes it out on the Emerald City and all those who stand in his way.
Chronicle is about Andrew (Dane DeHaan), Matt (Alex Russell) and Steve (Michael B. Jordan), three friends who, after a chance discovery, gain telekinesis abilities, enabling them to move objects with their mind, fly and do a variety of other crazy things. While Matt and Steve use their newfound powers for fun, Andrew, who has suffered years of abuse, realizes he can do so much more with his gift.
I mean, if I were him I'd try to murder my abusive dad, go on a crime rampage and obliterate several city streets, too. Just saying.
The movie defies its $15 million budget. Director Josh Trank stems from a visual effects background and it shows, as the effects define this movie. The special effects - especially in the third act where the characters battle through the streets of Seattle - are excellent. They look better than those found in many large productions, including titles like last year's X-Men: First Class.
Trank has an eye for action, too. While the movie doesn't feature many traditional action scenes, the way he presents the characters' powers - and how they interact with the real world - is great. He's a director to watch in the future.
As much as I liked Trank's work, his decision to go the found footage route is disappointing. As with many movies of the genre, the "footage" seems forced at times, even though Trank has more camera angles to play with (Andrew becomes obsessed with his camera and lets it levitate above him much of the time). The exact same story would have been more effective had he shot it in a more traditional style.
As much as I wanted to love Chronicle, the movie is restricted by a pretty rudimentary screenplay and actors that are more in line with the film's budget. The screenplay is adequate for a production such as this, but hardly groundbreaking. Aside from Andrew, the characters are pretty flat, their development minimal; Matt emerges as the lead protagonist, but only on accident. The actors don't help. DeHaan looks the party, but both he and Russell, who looks like the offspring of James Franco and Chris Evans, don't carry a lot of dramatic weight. Jordan brings more energy to the part, but his character is very one-note.
Chronicle isn't a great movie. At 84 minutes, it comes off as inconsequential and rushed. Still, it's entertaining. The early scenes where the teens strengthen their powers are funny and fun, and the third act is a blast, ultimately leaving you wanting more. The special effects and Trank's ability to make the most of them outweigh most of the film's weaknesses.
Chronicle isn't a great movie, but it is a good movie, a rarity among the early year horde of wannabes.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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