Chronicle (Blu-ray / DVD)
Directed by Josh Trank
Distributed by 20th Century Fox
Not so long ago, this writer had the misfortune of reviewing a film from the found-footage sub-genre. That movie hurt, it was so bad. In that review, I pointed out that I know of several people who have written off found-footage flicks due to having seen one or two really terrible ones, and how much that sort of reaction surprises me. Sure, for every one or two good POV flicks, there are a half dozen or so terrible ones. But isn’t that true of every genre and sub-genre? All these people need, I would argue, is a really great flick, told from the lens of an interesting protagonist in the middle of an engaging story, to win them over and get them to be a bit more charitable when it comes to this type of film.
That really great flick, I hope, will be Chronicle.
Telling the story of three teenagers who acquire superhuman abilities, and how this both brings them closer and tears them apart, Chronicle is a fascinating entry in both the superhero and found-footage genres, all told from the cameras of our leads (and, in the final act, several other cameras as well). It’s a stunning, wild, funny, action-packed and ultimately tragic coming-of-age tale, with three great lead performances and a wonderful script by Max Landis (son of John, writer of the underappreciated Masters of Horror episode “Deer Woman”), crafted by a director (Josh Trank) who does a great job of keeping the film grounded in reality, even when the events of the finale reach anime-like levels of mayhem.
If you have yet to see this film, do yourself a favor: read nothing more about it, avoid watching the trailer, and run away screaming if anyone tries to spoil anything for you. Just get thee to your nearest disc dealer, and rent or buy away. I promise you, if you enjoy action or superhero movies with a bit more depth and drama than is the norm, you will not be disappointed.
The Blu-ray includes a new version of the film, called the “Director’s Cut: Found Footage Edition”, in addition to the theatrical cut. Running about six minutes longer, the extended version includes some nice character moments which help define each of the leads a bit more. Given that this extra material likely wouldn’t have altered the rating, and considering that this cut still runs well under ninety minutes, it’s puzzling why this footage was removed at all. Perhaps so we would have a marketing-friendly “Director’s Cut” in the first place? One wonders…
The picture quality is quite sharp, mirroring its theatrical exhibition. It’s very cool how the first act of the film has somewhat of a flat, overly “digital” look (what with the lead character’s “older” camera), and how the rest of the film has a super-sharp, beautiful picture once the character’s camera is upgraded. The sound is pretty dynamic, especially during the bigger action sequences. Fully expect to be blown out of your chair during the film’s final fight sequence.
The bonus features include a deleted scene, titled “Matt and Casey in Kitchen”. Indeed, the scene features Matt, Casey, and a kitchen, and adds little to the plot. It is curious, though, that this scene features the Casey character topless while filming, which echoes another moment in the extended cut of the film (and sorry, guys, it’s a mere PG-13 suggestion of nudity).
Also included in the bonus features is “Pre-Viz”, a collection of animatics created to lay out two of the film’s larger action sequences, and “Camera Test”, which is a practice run for two of the film’s scenes with a different set of (very good) actors playing the leads. Finishing the bonus features up are the theatrical trailer and “Chronicle Soundtrack Info”, which is a still frame letting you know that, uh, there’s a soundtrack (somebody thought this was a special feature?).
While the set is nice enough, a commentary with the writer, director, and actors would have been very welcome, but so it goes. I should hope the film will one day garner a following big enough to justify a double-dip on Blu-ray, hopefully with a good deal more of extras.
In any case, if you’re a fan of superhero movies, found footage flicks, or just damned good movies in general, be sure to give Chronicle a shot. I’d wager some of you might be very surprised at how much you wind up enjoying it.
4 out of 5
2 1/2 out of 5