Now available in a Blu-ray/DVD combo pack from 20th Century Fox, supernatural odyssey Chronicle re-imagines classic superhero origin tropes by tempering them with a biting twist of misdirected adolescent revenge fantasy. Fox’s combo pack includes both the theatrical version of the film and an extended director’s cut, featuring approximately seven minutes of additional footage not previously seen in theaters.
After stumbling upon a glowing, pulsating LED geode hidden underground in a mysterious tunnel-like cavern, disaffected cousins Matt and Andrew, and their charismatic and overachieving friend David, discover they are suddenly fully equipped with incredibly powerful telekinetic abilities. Plunging with immature zeal into an epic spree of petty pranks and hair-raising psychokinetic daredevil maneuvers, the boys develop a strong personal bond as they begin to gradually understand and master the reality-bending limits of their freshly bestowed, shared supernatural distinctions.
As the strength of their affective capabilities continues to escalate, however, their friendship is undermined by a mounting series of internal fractures and misunderstandings, and Andrew, the most brooding and avoidant of the trio, begins acting increasingly strange, impulsive, and hostile. Following what appears to be a tragic accident, Andrew withdraws unequivocally, sinking into an abyss of rage and self-pity that threatens to consume him totally, and destroy anyone or anything unlucky enough to get in his way.
Chronicle is told mainly from a first-person perspective, and although Andrew’s compulsive camcorder documentation of the movie’s events are the hub of the conceit, the ubiquity of video technology is reflected in a lot of creative and interesting ways as the film progresses. The camera telekinetically levitates and gracefully arcs through the air to incorporate pans and overhead shots, and a later climactic showdown is compiled from disparately sourced news media, co-opted cell phones, and security camera footage. The movie’s only real misstep (and coincidentally, the only instance where the found footage device becomes tedious and distracting) is its inclusion of an extraneous, one-dimensional, and annoying female character who likes to video blog, presumably as an excuse to incorporate key scenes with characters who don’t normally videotape themselves.
Aside from commenting on the increasing availability and casual cultural relationship with video technology enjoyed by modern youths, Chronicle gradually reveals itself as a relatively naturalistic reworking of a classic superhero origin story, and from this perspective, it handles its subject with mature restraint and refreshing energy and enthusiasm. Like Carrie, Chronicle also functions as an allegorical horror movie dealing with the intrinsic exhilaration, fear, and pain of adolescence, which might be why the genre overlap packs such unique resonance. The escapist glee of superhero comics and the pent-up rage of adolescent horror movies express different facets of the same intense alienation and self-esteem tug-of-war that often characterizes high school experience, so the fusion is highly complementary, especially filtered through a stylistic presentation that so baldly underscores its immediacy.
The theatrical cut and director’s cut of the film unfortunately seemed pretty indistinguishable to me, and I was crushingly disappointed there was no commentary track, but there are a few worthwhile goodies on the disc regardless, including camera tests and CG animatics for some of the more spectacular effects sequences. In addition to its other admirable qualities, Chronicle has a truly amazing soundtrack that includes ambient electronic recordings from Crystal Castles, Simian Mobile Disco, and Deastro, plus many others. The movie is a stylishly executed and genuinely solid escapist fantasy, as well as a probing and poignant coming-of-age tragedy.