Upon exiting the theater after seeing Chronicle a couple days ago, fellow That Was Junk writer Josh asked me, “So, why was it called Chronicle?” After struggling to think up a logical answer, we both came to the conclusion that it was honestly the coolest word they could think of to generally describe the movie: a story. This kind of laziness is apparent in almost every aspect of Chronicle, which takes the found footage format, a genre which used to provide a somewhat new take on old concepts, and does whatever it has to in order to provide the audience with a product that seems somewhat different, but is filled with more lapses in logic and plausibility than some of the worst found footage films out there.
Following three teenagers as they basically gain superpowers after experiencing the most rushed and vague encounter with an alien life form ever put to film, Chronicle shows the effects these powers have on the boy’s friendships, home lives, and the most important aspect of all: their self-esteem. The filmmaker’s then take no time at all to throw many of the famous superhero life lessons towards our heroes: with great power comes great responsibility, absolute power corrupts absolutely, etc. And while the actors do a fine job with their severely underwritten and conventional characters, especially Michael B. Jordan as the popular and personable jock, the main problem with Chronicle comes entirely from its presentation.
Found footage films used to be (you know, a year ago) a way to creatively tell an old story in a new way. Instead of simply showing the audience what they’ve already seen in the same way they’ve always seen it, filmmakers had be creative in conveying the information without any fancy narrative tricks, and figure out how to arrive at plot and character points in both a realistic and natural fashion. However, instead of trying to find a creative way to tell the story of Chronicle, we instead get a hundred different cheats that make all of the bland characters and boring story beats look like any other normal movie. Lacking any kind of third party piecing together the presented footage, or any single camera or source of continuous perspective, Chronicle simply shows the audience whatever it wants, justifying it with any number of nearby video sources, be they security cameras, a passerby’s cell phone, some dude’s video camera, and a number of cameras that are, along with their footage, lost or destroyed. Oh, your characters are going to have a heart to heart three hundred feet in the air? Well, how about our main character pulls fifty or so iPhone’s out of the nearest skyscraper, and then we’ll cut between them as they all record our perfectly framed characters, getting great audio, and giving us as many angles as we want! It’s all so lazy, it almost feels like a huge step back for the entire genre. Now, instead of finding natural ways of getting out characters to film themselves delivering important exposition or participating in important plot points, we’ll just have the crowd record it, or make the main character pull some Gaspar Noe shit, having the camera float around on its own accord and recording it all perfectly without any help.
Despite this, Chronicle’s not actually that bad of a movie, just an incredibly bland one that attempts to spice things up with a few acts of extreme violence and destruction, and make up for its own failings with the extreme misuse of the found footage device. The leads have a good time with their roles and the audience definitely won’t be bored while watching it, but walking out of Chronicle, the first thing that popped into my mind was, “Why couldn’t they just have made this like a normal movie?” Chronicle already looks like a decently produced studio movie to begin with, so much so that people don’t seem to get that it’s found footage from the commercials and trailers, so obviously getting that aesthetic wasn’t a huge concern during the process of making it, and it would’ve kept the camerawork and motivations for filming certain scenes a non-issue. But, since it’s too late to fix any issues that it might have now, Chronicle will have to settle for being an average superhero movie with some fun scenes, neat effects, and natural performances. In other words, it’s not great, but it could’ve been far, far worse.
5 out of 10.