Chronicle (Blu-ray Review)

If Superman: The Movie made you believe a man could fly, Chronicle will make you believe that three boys can hold their own up in the air as well.  Chronicle is a pretty entertaining story about a group of high school kids that discover superpowers.  That the film has the added quality of being shot by way of camcorders, cell phones, security cameras, and news footage is an interesting route to take.  Setting the film up as a “found footage” flick does suggest some gimmickry is at play, especially when justifying the presence of the camera at times, but the joy of seeing a fresh take on what is both a superhero and supervillain origin story, made on a small budget, makes it worthwhile.  Now that it is available on Blu-ray, I discover whether the disc has even more power to discover within.


The film begins with Andrew (Dane DeHaan), a high school teenager, who has purchased a camera, with the intention to film (chronicle) his life.  It is essentially a way for him to cope with what he is dealing with.  Andrew has a sick mother and abusive father at home and is bullied and lonely at school.  The opening of the film is pretty clear in setting up the anti-social qualities of Andrew’s life.  However, Andrew’s cousin Matt (Alex Russell) wants to do his best to help out Andrew and brings him along to a party.  While the party is not quite Andrew’s scene, what happens later in the night is far more interesting.

All around popular guy and fellow student Steve Montgomery (Michael B. Jordan) approaches Andrew outside the party and alerts him of something he and Matt found.  Out in an isolated field, there appears to be a mysterious hole in the ground.  The trio probe deeper and find a large glowing object.  Cut to black.  When things pick back up, we discover that the three have now developed telekinetic powers, allowing them to move, throw, and stop objects with their minds (among other possible abilities).  It is fun and games at first, with the guys playing pranks on others and further enhancing their newfound skill set.  Andrew is also enjoying being able to express himself more openly, but as time goes on, the notion of great power and great responsibility comes to mind, as certain choices lead to dark places.

As Chronicle moved along, I enjoyed it more and more.  It functions pretty successfully as an alternative spin on the superhero origin story.  The introduction does enough to set everything up.  The second act has fun with exploring newfound powers.  And the finale goes into action territory, but with an added level of how the perspectives of the various cameras involved portray that action.  Chronicle manages to accomplish a lot and provide a higher level of scope than one would think for a film under the pretense of a “found footage” film that was made on a low ($15 million) budget, as far as super-powered films are concerned.

While I will get to why the “found footage” angle has gimmick-related issues, an aspect that works because of the use of this format for structuring the film is the relationship seen between the leads.  There is a level of authenticity in the chemistry between the guys that makes the fact that camcorders are being used to show them together feel more real.  This is important, because selling the friendship between these three is a very important aspect of the film.  That sense of discovery has been seen before in other superhero movies, but the notion of having three teenagers figuring these things out together is an interesting one and believing in their friendship benefits the film.

The key player in this film is the character of Andrew, who is setup with the most dramatic business to deal with.  In the role, DeHaan is good enough.  I think that with how the film is structured and what is required of him, DeHaan plays well with the emotion, even if there are some steps taken by his character that may not feel as organic as they could have been in a multi-volume comic series (this is a simple, 80-minute popcorn flick after all).  The other actors are good enough as well, mainly because of the chemistry between their interactions, which I have pointed out already.

Getting back to the idea of this being a “found footage” film, the problem that can be generally associated with this style revolves around the idea of why the camera is needed at all.  There are some clever touches, such as establishing early on that Chronicle is not going to play out on just one camera, as well as coming up with a way to have all three actors in front of the camera for reasons beyond just setting it down somewhere.  Still, I did get distracted at times due to the fact that I knew that a camera had no real reason in being present during some scenes, regardless of what movie logic tried to dictate to me.

The low budget of the film is another area that had many positives as well as a few negatives.  On the one hand, working with a small budget provided director Josh Trank, writer Max Landis, and the rest of the crew with a lot of areas that required them to be quite clever as filmmakers.  How to provide a minimal representation of what it is like to have telekinetic superpowers was an interesting feat to see accomplished.  At the same time, Chronicle does have a lot of CG effects and some of them are quite obvious.  This was surprisingly not as much of an issue for me during the hectic third act, but when the effects were coming into play with the smaller objects, they stuck out.  Still, all in all, I got into the film enough from a storytelling/entertainment level that these were not major issue, just minor problematic areas.  There is an ambitious quality to Chronicle that does a lot to outweigh enough of these minor quibbles.

As a person who enjoys superhero flicks and creative filmmaking, I can say that Chronicle is a success.  It takes an intriguing premise, sets it up properly, plays around with the idea for a while, and then lets loose in its finale.  The film does not overstay its welcome and feels well-balanced throughout.  Issues with some of the effects and gimmickry aside, Chronicle is a fresh blast of fun that has entered theaters with little commotion behind it, beyond selling the idea of an original story of teen angst and super powers.  So yeah, I was happy to see John Hughes’ Paranormal Activity by way of Stan Lee.



Despite being supposedly shot on a few different camcorders and other various recording devices, Chronicle is presented on Blu-ray with a 1080p AVC encoded transfer.  It looks very good regardless, presenting a film that uses its muted color palette to its advantage.  Despite being set in a heavily overcast/rainy Seattle (and neighboring suburb), the film does well enough in presenting the character details and various locations in a clear fashion.  Again, separating the idea that we are supposed to be seeing the majority of the film through a camcorder lens, textures all look fine, the black levels are good enough, and when the film hits its bigger action beats, which tend to take place at night, it is still a strong presentation for a “found footage” flick.  I did mention how the effects earlier on in the film tended to stick out, which is not helped by a crisp video presentation, but that, again, reflects the quality of the transfer.


Again, putting the “found footage” angle aside, I was having a blast listening to this film, which was doing a good job of shaking around my room when things got crazier.  The Blu-ray is equipped with a lossless 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track, which seemed to do a lot of good in representing the film.  There are a lot of different sound elements present throughout the film and I have a lot of respect for how well mixed the audio track is on this film.  Chronicle is very dialogue-heavy at times, but many moments make good use of low bass levels and various sound effects for the ways these guys are altering their environment.  Then there are the much larger-scaled scenes that involve a ton of action occurring at one time and this disc delivers very well.  Very strong audio support here.


This is where things go south.  For a film that I would be fascinated to learn more about, it is quite sad that there are practically no features that elaborate all that much on the making of this film.  No commentary, not even a standard “behind-the-scenes” look.  Maybe a double-dip is due down the line, but who knows?

The Theatrical cut of this film is featured on this Blu-ray, along with a “Never Before-Seen” Extended Director’s Cut, which adds about five minutes.  This extended version features a few character bits, an extended stay at a diner, and a revisit to an area previously seen in the film that is incredibly ambiguous and does nothing.  There is no real difference added that made me appreciate the film more, but I will still most likely watch this cut preferably.

Features Include:

Deleted Scene – A pointless bit that adds nothing but a shot that was in the trailer, which made some of the younger boys more excited to see this film.

Pre-Viz – Some animatics that layout the design of some key effects sequences of the film.  Presented with no commentary or bookends, but does show that the film’s screenplay evolved, as there is some alternate story beats seen here.

Camera Test – Appears to be test footage of the diner scene, which plays around with the way the effects would be handled for the film.  Again, no real explanation for this, just footage with no added detail.

Soundtrack Info – A static frame that makes the viewer aware that a soundtrack exists.

Theatrical Trailer

Sneak Peak

BD-Live – No extras were available at this time.

DVD copy of the film – Theatrical version only

Digital Copy of the film – Theatrical version only


Chronicle is a solid film that works as a fun take on a proven genre and adds a bit of freshness to it by using the “found footage” angle.  Even with the minor quibbles I have with the film, I find it to be one of the cleverer and more creative films to have come along, so far this year.  It helps that I liked the characters and found their chemistry to be an effective way to make the film work better than it could have.  I also like that the scale of the action is larger than one would expect and effectively handled (and also destroys any need for an official live-action Akira movie).  The Blu-ray features a strong video presentation and a very effective audio track, but I am still disappointed by the extras.  Still, it is a film I am glad to have as part of my collection.

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Writer/Reviewer, Film Lover, Podcaster, Gamer, Comic Reader, Disc Golfer & a Lefty. There are too many films, TV, books, etc. for me to list as favorites, but I can assure that the amount film knowledge within my noggin is ridiculous, though I am always open to learning more. You can follow me on Twitter @AaronsPS4, see what else I am up to at TheCodeIsZeek.com & check out my podcast, Out Now with Aaron and Abe, on iTunes.

1 Response to “Chronicle (Blu-ray Review)”

  1. Brian White

    Love this one!
    I can’t wait to own this one day when the price is right!
    Having not seen the Blu-ray yet, I’m pretty comfortable with your scores.
    Great surprise flick!