With great power comes great arsing about

As a high-schooler tests his fresh superpowers on an unfortunate arachnid, is Josh Trank’s $15m feature debut issuing a sly challenge to 2012’s squillion-dollar spandex crew? Spidey and co better look sharp if so, because this found-footage flyweight matches advance heat with the clout to satisfy and subvert genre expectation.

Co-opted from horror for sci-fi usage, the first-person format is energised to max emotion, immersion, invention and action. But a clever shift of genre focus adds what a superhero-stuffed market needs: the element of surprise.

Humour and the human touch of characterisation cut through origin-tale cliché to start, as three dudes at a rave explore a freaky underground hole that grants them telekinetic powers. Steve (Michael B Jordan) is a sporty politico, Matt (Alex Russell) a brainy but emotionally stunted hunk. Matt’s cousin Andrew (Dane DeHaan) is our eyes, an outsider whose grim home set-up – sick mom, dipso dad, no money - has alienated him from life.

Andrew’s disconnection drives his habit of viewing life through a camera, a point fully explored and exploited in Max ‘son of John’ Landis’s script. We understand his voyeurism and why others think it’s “weird”. We’re ecstatic that his prowess transcends shaky-cam cliché.

That attention to persuasive detail continues as the trio test their powers in teen-dork style: heroism’s on hold while they goof about, blowing gusts up girls’ skirts and – hilariously - instilling fear of teddies in one moppet.

But Chronicle is no Superman-meets-Jackass spoof: it honours comic-book conventions by proving their adaptability to new contexts. Natural but vivid performances (from True Blood’s DiCaprio-ish DeHaan, notably), class rage and darkening philosophical notions plumb depths and reel us in.

Neither is it too lofty to excite. Some cheats with the first-person format occur: why Matt’s ex-girlfriend films her doorway is anyone’s guess. Yet they’re forgiven for the immediacy of the first flight scene and the thrillingly realised climax, a Carrie White-meets-Clark Kent cataclysm of money shots quick-cut from various recording devices (CCTV, iPhones) with no dilution of emotional focus.

The crux of that focus is Andrew, around whom the origin-tale plot parts coalesce. Yet this “nerd with a camera” is a more complex, contemporary cove than Peter Parker. Stewed in a very now fixation on self-documentation, his great power comes with great concern for him and his mates.

The summer’s incoming super-dudes should be feeling equally anxious: this bolt from the low-budget blue is going to take some beating.


Josh Trank’s savvy sleeper buffs up superhero and hand-held thrills. Believable then bad-ass, it isn’t wholly original but it does brim with emotion, imagination and modern implication. Take that, Bats.

Film Details

User Reviews

    • thedanieljson

      Jan 30th 2012, 17:40

      5 stars!?! Blimey, at best I thought this'd be some silly fun... Excited now.

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    • SixStepSamurai

      Jan 30th 2012, 17:49

      Yeah, I was expecting this to have average reviews but 5*'s? You can definitley colour me very interested!

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    • EddieFelson

      Jan 30th 2012, 18:49

      I also thought this would be a bit of a well Sunday afternoon filler, clearly I was wrong definitely intrigued to see how it got 5*s!

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    • MikeyRix

      Jan 30th 2012, 19:23

      Haha, pretty much what everyone else said. 5*? Bliiimey. Must be pretty interesting then! Although I was interested in its genre hybridity (if that's a word) more than anything.

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    • FBGRoberts

      Jan 31st 2012, 7:13

      Been anticipating this film getting good reviews for a good few months now; expected 4 at best but 5 is great news. Really been looking forward to this as I really enjoyed Jumper and Akira and Spiderman and this looks in a similar vein, so a great film was almost expected. Very glad it got the chances it clearly deserved. This will most definitely be a making-of to watch, see how it got funded, etc...

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    • Ali1748

      Jan 31st 2012, 17:26

      Five seems a bit much, the trailer didn't exactly blow me away.

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    • hendrixisgod777

      Feb 1st 2012, 16:16

      First time I became aware of this was via radio. Hearing the clips alone got me interested in this, and now a 5 star review! Definitely checking this one out.

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    • scuzz80

      Feb 1st 2012, 22:42

      Watched this today in Dublin. I loved this film, it's so much fun. This is for anybody who has ever wanted to see a live action treatment of Akira that wouldn't actually be able to ruin Akira!

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    • Heisenberg

      Feb 2nd 2012, 8:17

      Watched this last night, its a not a 5 star movie, its probably just about a 4 star movie, some good scenes, but the main character is not that interesting, obviously playing the dark 'tortured' soul(for obvious reasons) but just comes across as an a**e which makes him ultimately uninteresting as the movie unfolds, and you dont really care what happens to him. But the final scene is pretty damn good.

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    • paulbyrne

      Feb 3rd 2012, 1:36

      You gave this lame Cloverfield-meets-Carrie c**k five stars? What is this, Empire? This isn't a review, it's an advertorial. This film starts off as Video Diary Of A Wimpy Kid and then just meanders, squandering a decent, if traditional, premise before an overblown showdown finale. It doesn't help that these three kids are blessed/cursed with lo-budget CGI powers. The viral kites video Fox planted looks more impressive. You just keep hoping Patrick Stewart will swing by and administer a severe mental beating on these young X-a*****es. And then call one of them fat. Nothing. Really. Happens. The whole thing plays like a high school drama class project. If you liked Jumper, you'll like this. Because you're an idiot. Five stars, my a**e.

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    • FBJLampard

      Feb 3rd 2012, 10:43


      Comparing this to Jumper is idiotic. Considering the amount of super-powered characters the film industry has drowned us in since Spiderman became such a box office hit, it's good to see a film show us something we can get behind. We've all been kids at some point, and this film shows the difference between nature/nurture differentiate the characters. This film outclasses Cloverfield in every way, and although the CG might not be on par with big budget blockbusters, it's only noticeable in a few scenes. Whilst the POV camera does have flaws, most of it is really well done. Total Film's star rating isn't something anyone should pay attention to, but this film was a great watch and well worth seeing.

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    • cinders

      Feb 5th 2012, 21:44


      Really enjoyed everything about this Movie right up until the battle scene at the end. I felt the pace of the Film just ran away with itself, making a mockery of the earlier scenes when the lads are developing their powers. we then get a "Superman II" ending that I just did not rate. A shame in my opinion, as this showed a bit of origonality before this....

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    • waxonwaxoff14

      Feb 15th 2012, 22:53


      The first film in a very long time that scared me simply by how fantastically well the characters, in particular Andrew, were written and developed, and the breakdown in psyche. Fantastic script, inventive directing that strays from run of the mill 'found footage' film making. Dane DeHann is one to watch, with a beautiful, touching then terrifying performance, which is subtle in contrast to the possibility of the character and his extremities. Many people have noted a similarity in the ending of this and Carrie. I agree, and must highlight how much of an honour it is to have such similarities seen with a film of Carrie's stature. Film of the year.

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    • Jrdnsans1792

      Feb 16th 2012, 22:35


      Without a doubt one of the worst films i've ever seen. Certainly the worst film i've ever had to sit through in the cinema. How can this get 5 stars? I wouldn't even give it 1 star as even that would be too much of a compliment. The acting was extremely poor as was the script, both of these factors making it impossible to give a s**t about the characters. For the most part of the film it seems like they were just trying to make their 'powers' seem cool in order to wow the audience. Maybe if you're eight years old this will keep you interested, but for anyone who would actually like a decent storyline, then this certainly isn't for you. Also the whole 'found footage' thing has now been done to death. Lacking in any sort of originality, this is best avoided. Pathetic.

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    • FBTRoberts

      Feb 22nd 2012, 22:51


      I have been looking forward to seeing this film for months now, Just got home from the cinema and have to say i am well and truly disappointed. If you're going to film from a hand held camera then you cannot edit the shots, if you don't know what im talking about, just take the scene at the beginning when he is driving and singing, they cut out part of the songs which in a normal film is ok but if your on a hand held camera you just can't do it doesn't make sense. It happens throughout the film. As for the story line, they spent the whole film building up to him being a badass and then spend 10 minutes on it at the end. and a pointless ending, I could understand if they had already announced a squeal and this film was to set the tone, but they haven't and i honestly feel empty inside, The trailer looks awesome and has taken all the best parts out of the film 1 stars just because i like the idea of the film,

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    • SaveFerris

      May 20th 2012, 13:50


      Entertaining in parts, but what's the point of it being a 'found footage' movie, really? It's the most tired and obnoxious gimmick in modern cinema. Plus the lead character was an unlikable d****e even before he becomes bad .

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    • Jareth64

      Jul 3rd 2012, 11:47


      5/5? I do wonder about Total Film's capacity to give honest reviews. The very average just-scrapes-a-3/5-Prometheus gets 4/5 and is "very good" (it's seriously not, it's rather poor), and Chronicle gets an absurd 5/5? The premise isn't anything new but the film is quite entertaining, but trails off towards the end. Resonable entertainment, but nothing else.

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    • thedanieljson

      Dec 19th 2013, 1:48


      Just watched again, and was as thrilled as when I saw it in the cinema. 5/5 very much earned.

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