"found-footage" genre has become a popular form of cinema, with about 60 feature films using the technique so far. Thirteen years after "The Blair Witch Project," you could argue that stitching a movie together out of snippets of amateur video is getting pretty tired — and yet, there's a reason it works.
For one, it's a great way to blunt cliches. If a character gains super powers and leaps into the air, that's a pretty tired premise. But if he's shown flying away in an unsteady homemade video, it adds a bit of freshness and verisimilitude.
"Chronicle" makes the most of the found-footage approach, and stakes a claim beside "Cloverfield" and "District 9" as a standard bearer for the genre. I didn't find it quite as poignant as either of those films, but "Chronicle" explored enough new ground to show why these sorts of movies are still worth making.
The film features a trio of teens who gain the power of telekinesis after discovering a mysterious cavern. (Yes, this sounds preposterous, but when you see it in fuzzy video clips, you buy it.) The scenario gives the characters the ability to levitate the camera, so they don't have to hold it while they film everything. This makes it seem slightly less ludicrous that they're able to record all their actions — compared with, say, "Cloverfield."
Most of the film depicts the teens coming to grips with their new-found power. After a period of fun and games, one of the youths turns to darker activities, setting the stage for a mayhem-filled finale. The New Yorker's David Denby took issue with the film's third act, saying it was too conventional and grim in its approach. But it's hard to imagine how else "Chronicle" could have proceeded. It's been said that every movie has the same theme — "careful what you wish for" — and not delving into that territory would have made the picture much less satisfying.
In fact, when the character does go bad, the movie has earned it. His descent seems inevitable, based on his troubled home life and the exhilaration of his seemingly limitless powers.
"Chronicle" should be commended for creating a super villain that is entirely plausible and sympathetic. How many movies accomplish that, regardless of their video quality?
BuboBlog Rating: 3 asterisks (out of 4)