There had never been anything quite like Chronicle in the superhero genre when it was released, which helped it win rave reviews, but many people seem to have forgotten just how different and interesting it is. With the sci-fi found footage film streaming on Hulu, now is a good time to get reacquainted or see it for the first time.
Josh Tranks superhero found footage superhero film Chronicle is streaming on Hulu.
The found footage genre has tended, since its breakout with 1999’s The Blair Witch Project, to exist primarily within the horror space, but Chronicle brought the innovative filmmaking style to the superhero genre in an unexpected way. Directed and co-written by Josh Trank, the 2012 film tells the story of three high school seniors in Seattle who gain the power to control things with their minds, a shocking life development over which they connect with one another.
The most popular of the three, Steve, is played by Michael B. Jordan with Dane DeHaan and Alex Russell starring as a pair of cousins, one of whom is subject to bullying and begins to take a turn in a darker direction.
[I]t was actually photographed by cinematographer Matthew Jensen on the professional grade Arri Alexa, with the footage altered in post to look like lower-resolution video.
Josh Trank had originally developed the idea for Chronicle in high school, eventually working with two separate screenwriters to bring the final screenplay to fruition. Back before it was acquried by Disney, 20th Century Fox not only purchased the rights to the film, but green lit it for production in 2011, giving Trank the reins for his directorial and screenwriting debut. Though it is set in Seattle, the film was primarily shot in Cape Town, South Africa, and Vancouver, Canada.
This posed some interesting challenges for Chronicle‘s production team, especially since cars are built to drive on a different side of the road in South Africa, meaning American cars had to be shipped in for the film. But the shooting locations in South Africa and Canada ultimately still worked to the benefit of the film’s budget, despite such considerations.
While it believably appears to have been shot on the Canon XL1 and the other camcorder scene used during the film, it was actually photographed by cinematographer Matthew Jensen on the professional grade Arri Alexa, with the footage altered in post to look like lower-resolution video.
Chronicle debuted on Super Bowl weekend in 2012 and, despite predictions of an $8 million to $12 million dollar opening, it instead pulled in $22 million, making it the fourth highest-grossing motion picture debut on a Super Bowl weekend. The film currently holds an 85 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes and received largely positive reviews upon its release.
In his three-star review, Roger Ebert called it an “uncommonly entertaining movie” and noted its effective merging of the genres of sci-fi, superhero, and teenage drama.
Though people today might not remember Chronicle as much as perhaps they should, it brought a fresh angle to the superhero genre that had not been seen to that point and has not been tapped in the way it could have been since. The challenge of making the film was, of course, complex, but Trank rose to the task surprisingly well as a first-time filmmaker.
Todd McCarthy of The Hollywood Reporter noted that the film did not fail at looking like genuinely found footage, as others in the genre had, but instead helped the audience suspend disbelief by embracing its format wholeheartedly.
Chronicle was nominated for a Saturn Award for Best Science Fiction Film, though It ultimately lost to The Avengers. Still, having pulled in an impressive $126.6 million dollars on a $15 million budget, sequel talk predictably followed not long after the film’s release.
Though it is set in Seattle, the film was primarily shot in Cape Town, South Africa, and Vancouver, Canada.
Fox commissioned a script for a sequel, but there was not much movement on that front until 2021, when plans for a female-led sequel taking place a decade after the original were announced.
Whether a Chronicle sequel will move forward or not is unclear, but Trank has expressed his desire to not be involved with such a project, believing a sequel to be unnecessary. To this day, the film still stands out as a unique, fresh take on a sometimes overwrought genre, making it well worth viewing. If you’re interested in science fiction, superhero films, found footage films, or Michael B. Jordan, there are plenty of reasons to stream Chronicle on Hulu now.