Chronicle

Found-footage movies have been a mixed bag since they burst on the scene about a decade ago, with few having the conviction to follow through on their concept.

The next title on the list is Chronicle, a stylish low-budget science fiction effort that skillfully mixes genres yet lacks a sufficient payoff for its intriguing premise.

As with many such films, which present a faux-documentary feel by ostensibly creating a scenario by which the characters can film themselves or be filmed by cameras in real-life situations, it’s best to know little about the plot beforehand.

The basic setup starts with Andrew (Dane DeHaan), who is bullied at his high school and must deal with a home life that includes an abusive father (Michael Kelly) and a terminally ill mother.

He buys a video camera and decides to start filming his life, including the party to which his cousin Matt (Alex Russell) reluctantly drags him. Later, the duo ventures into the nearby woods with the student-body president (Michael B. Jordan), discovering a cave with a mysterious light that transfers powers of telekinesis to all three of them.

Sworn to secrecy, they bond over their new abilities, at first causing simple mischief before things take a dark and destructive turn.

Chronicle has some fine moments, especially in the playful first half, even if the central conflict boils down to little more than old-fashioned teenage angst. There’s simply not much substance amid the gimmicks and spectacle.

Still, the film should provide a showcase for the fresh-faced cast as well as 26-year-old director Josh Trank, who works from a script by fellow newcomer Max Landis. The filmmaker demonstrates plenty of creativity in his use of special effects and camera movements, which is tricky considering the unique rules to which the concept forces him to adhere.

The freewheeling script is more problematic. Since it lacks explanation for its bizarre goings-on by nature, it tends to make up the rules as it goes along. The audience doesn’t know who is capable of what, or how their powers can be neutralized.

By the time it reaches a climactic good-against-evil showdown, the film ditches its character development in favor of a flashy fanboy fantasyland.

It leaves many unanswered questions, perhaps the most important of which is: Why did Andrew start filming in the first place?

 

Rated PG-13, 83 minutes.

 

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