What would you do if you had a superpower? Would you honestly go the comic-book hero route and embark on a selfless and lonely journey in which you try to rid the world of all evil?
These are the questions posed by the science fiction film, Chronicle, the directorial debut of Josh Tank who co-wrote the story with Max Landis.
In the story, three teenagers, Andrew Detmer (Dane DeHaan), Matt Garetty (Alex Russell) and Steve Montgomery (Michael B Jordan) stumbled across an unidentified “thing” in an underground cave. Their interaction with it, gives them powerful telekinetic powers. The trio do what any normal adolescents would do: they experiment and get up to as much fun (but harmless) mischief as they can. In a phone interview, Tank told me he did not want to make a cliché. “I wanted to make a movie that explored superpowers in a more stripped down way, a human way where the main characters, instead of being led by some kind of a moral conviction, are led by their curiosity.”
Most of the movie is filmed in a slightly shaky, handy-cam style by Andrew from whose point of view the story is told. This isn’t the grainy-looking footage of The Blair Witch Project or Paranormal though. The camera is high-quality and Andrew has natural talent. “I wanted to make a movie that felt like a personal documentary but to approach the challenges of not just making it into any kind of POV gimmick that we’ve seen rise in popularity over the past 10 years. [I wanted] to create a film that realizes the first person aesthetic but at a certain point transcends this and becomes more cinematic.”
To listen to my full interview with Tank click on this clip
Or to listen to Alex Russell talk about how it was filming in South Africa click on this link
But, things cannot and never stay the same when power is involved. Andrew, who was the odd one out in the group to begin with, develops his powers faster than the other two. While Matt and Steve have always popular at school, Andrew is bullied and ridiculed. While he chronicles their escapes, he tells the others that the camera is a barrier between him and the outside world.
But, now he is able to fight back when his drunkard father beats him or when a driver hoots at him. He uses his power to channel years of pent-up rage and begins to lose control. Matt’s attempts to lay ground rules so that they do not use their powers to harm others have no effect on Andrew, who seems to become drunk on his new-found abilities.
The film digs much deeper than most Marvel-style comic-to-film adaptations and explores the psychological effects of gaining a superpower.
The cinematography and special effects are slick. When the teens take to the sky it’s as vivid and clear as any sky-diving footage you have seen. Chronicle was filmed in Cape Town but the film is set in Seattle, Washington and it is hard to recognise anything about the Mother City.
The film has receive wide critical acclaim and is a very worthy first effort by Tank.
Director: Josh Tank
Cast: Dane DeHaan, Alex Russell, Michael B Jordan
Rating: 4 out of 5