Chronicle was a film lauded for its originality within the superhero genre. Nowadays, there are all different kinds of superhero films. With the rise of the Marvel Cinematic Universe in 2008 with Jon Favreau’s Iron Man, more independent films have been passed over for big-budget spectacles. Many view the films released independently of the MCU staple or even Warner Bros. many releases under the DC brand as quite forgettable in today’s oversaturation.
However, ten years ago, a director who would eventually have his career nearly decimated by a film that was notorious for its horrible production would direct a film that many have forgotten in today’s day and age. That director was Josh Trank, who would go on to direct the hated Fant4stic film for 20th Century Fox.
Who is Josh Trank?
Josh Trank is a film editor and director from Los Angeles who gained popularity following the release of his debut film, the found-footage superhero thriller Chronicle, which celebrated its tenth anniversary back in February of 2022. Trank’s film, which expertly used a combination of intricate action and character story-telling led many audiences to his film, which was made on a budget of just $12 Million dollars.
Chronicle eventually grossed over $125 Million, over ten times the original budget allotted to him, paving the way for Trank to be hired to direct the Fantastic Four reboot. Chronicle‘s release while Trank was 27 years old made him the youngest director in the history of Hollywood to direct a successful film, taking the record away from Stephen Spielberg, who released the classic Adventure/Horror film JAWS in 1975. So, you know Trank’s got some skin in the game.
However, with the success of Chronicle, one would imagine Trank as being one of the most sought-after directors in Hollywood, right? Well, he was until Fantastic Four. The film was lambasted by critics and fans alike, many stating the film’s story, acting, and length were to blame for its horrible reception. Trank posted and then deleted a tweet prior to the film’s release, blaming 20th Century Fox’s interference on the film’s overall reception. Actor Toby Kebbell, who portrayed Victor Von Doom/Doctor Doom in the film, has since corroborated these statements.
Prior to Chronicle‘s release, many studios had attempted to bring him on board their projects, including as a writer and director for an R-Rated cut of Sony’s upcoming Venom film as well as an adaptation of Shadow of the Colossus, the 2005 PlayStation exclusive. However, following Fant4stic‘s failure, Trank decided to take a five-year hiatus from filmmaking before returning in 2020 with Capone, a biopic about the famed tax evader and mobster Al Capone, with Tom Hardy playing the titular role. The film received mixed reviews following its video-on-demand release.
What was Chronicle?
Now that you have some context for who Trank is now, let’s go back a decade and take a look at his directorial debut. Chronicle details the story of three young high school seniors: Andrew Detmer (Dane DeHaan), Matt Garetty (Alex Russell), and Steve Montgomery (Michael B. Jordan). Andrew is a social outcast whose home life is incredibly toxic due to his abusive stepfather and his deathly sick mother. Invited by his cousin, Matt, Andrew goes to a party where he meets popular jock and class president candidate Steve Montgomery, who leads him and Matt to a cave containing a mysterious alien crystal that subsequently gives them all the power of telekinesis (essentially, they have The Force).
The three use their powers as any kid would, pulling pranks on passersby, screwing around with each other, and having fun at a school talent show. However, as Andrew’s home life continues to deteriorate and he becomes desperate, he slowly dives into madness, forcing the other two boys to confront him in a battle that nearly levels all of Seattle, Washington. Reminder this film was made on a budget of just $12 Million.
Chronicle dives deep into the concepts of loneliness, awkwardness, and the grief that comes with coming death, all the while creating an interesting look at superhero films. The film uses the found-footage style to accurately portray what it would be like to stand on the sidelines and watch as two super-powered individuals fly around and destroy a city. Scenes of bystanders filming the battle at the end with their phones speak out to you, showing a visual that you don’t often see in many, if any, other superhero film.
Dane DeHaan does wonders portraying Andrew, showing how this abused and bullied kid would react to being given God-like power. Alex Russell also does well portraying the trio’s sense of conscience, being the one attempting to reason with both his co-leads. Michael B. Jordan continues to shine with his portrayal of superheroes, being the comedic relief as well as a close friend to Andrew in his time of need, relating to him all throughout the film.
One of the important aspects this film carries is its ability to make you identify with each of the three leads. You understand their motivations and their flaws because they are genuinely believable. Each actor’s ability to bring their respective characters to life helps make the film standout on its own.
The film also expertly uses the use of found footage to help tell the story of Andrew, who initially uses the purchasing of a camera as a deterrent to his abusive father before utilizing the camera to tell the story of his daily life. The camera catches scenes of Andrew being bullied by classmates and his father whilst also showing his relationship with his cousin Matt. Trank’s excellent use of storytelling with the camera also breathes fresh air into the superhero genre.
Why is Chronicle relevant?
Chronicle was one of the few independent superhero films to make it in a world populated by superhero content. It launched the careers of Josh Trank and Alex Russell whilst expanding on the careers of DeHaan and Jordan. The film has been forgotten for the most part in today’s society, but it still holds meaning as one of the many good found-footage films and as a hidden gem in the superhero film genre.
While Trank has attempted to dissuade many studios from attempting to make a sequel to the film, a sequel was formally announced in August of 2021, with Alex Russell rumored to be reprising his role in the film.
Producer John Davis, in an interview with Forbes Magazine for his film Jungle Cruise, stated that the film will be led by a group of females who have just graduated college and have obtained powers similar to the main leads in the first film. He also stated that the film would deal with the fallout of the events of the first film, with topics around “fake news and real news and cover-ups”. The sequel is being developed by 20th Century Studios, a Fox subsidiary owned by Disney, with an as-of-yet-unknown release date.
Chronicle is currently available to stream on Hulu and is available for purchase physically and digitally on Amazon.
For future updates on Josh Trank’s next projects or the future of Chronicle 2, stay tuned to The Illuminerdi and follow us on Twitter!