In February, one of the best comic book movies ever made quietly appeared in movie theaters, did modestly well and then disappeared.
“Chronicle” comes out on DVD and Blu-ray today, and while it doesn’t have a marquee name involved such as Captain America or Batman, it deserves the attention of all comic book fans.
While the idea is not exactly unique, “Chronicle” does a fantastic job of bringing super powers squarely into the real world as a trio of wholly relatable teens gains fantastic telekinetic powers and uses them in ways that make complete sense, from toy store pranks to a complete mental meltdown and threat to the city (maybe the world).
It achieves that through the found-footage style some filmmakers are favoring these days.
Most of that footage comes from Andrew (Dane DeHaan), a loner and bullying victim from an abusive home who decided to buy a camera and start filming almost everything in his life. His one friend in life seems to be his cousin Matt (Alex Russell), who’s kind of a cool kid but doesn’t seem to be in the elite. Matt and amiable class president candidate Steve (Michael B. Jordan) find something in the woods during a weekend rave and drag Andrew out to film it.
It’s a mysterious, noisy, glowing object buried underground. Access is through a small opening and some tunnels. It gives them nosebleeds and messes with the camera. And when we next see the boys, they’re just discovering their abilities, messing with a baseball, building Lego towers, blowing up skirts and the like. They even figure out how to fly.
“With great power comes great responsibility” speeches are kept to a minimum.
But through it all, it’s clear Andrew is becoming the most powerful of the three. And as his father becomes more abusive, and his sick mother comes closer to dying, Andrew really starts losing it, leading to the dramatic conclusion.
Just about anyone who’s ever dreamed of having super powers will see themselves in one of these three guys. Even if you swear you’ll become the next Spider-Man, there’s still that moment of discovery and the build-up as you find you can manipulate a lot more than a baseball. And like most super teams, these are three guys who would probably never hang out with each other but form a bond through their shared secret.
And, of course, there’s a girl: Casey (Ashley Hinshaw) is a fellow student who has a video blog. Some of the footage is from her camera, and she becomes important as the film progresses.
But the film stays smartly, mostly focused on the main three and Andrew’s descent. Why was he the most powerful? Was that object alien- or man-made? How much does the government know? Andrew and his camera weren’t any place where those answers can be revealed, so we never find out, either, which brings the film closer to home.
We do find answers for the human equation, though. For instance, Andrew’s father is abusive, but there’s a backstory there. It’s not an excuse, but it’s a recognizable reason. And it’s all grounded by the completely natural performances of the three leads, which totally sells the “found-footage” format. With no splashy energy powers or the like, the special effects fit organically with the story.
The Blu-ray includes a director’s cut and deleted scenes, but, unfortunately, that version wasn’t sent out to critics by 20th Century Fox, so I can’t tell you what else is included and what new insights might be revealed.
But even the regular cut is worth watching, and I suggest you do so after the “Avengers” euphoria has worn off.