Those who enjoyed Max Landis and Josh Trank's low-budget found footage superhero drama Chronicle will probably already know by now that, though Twentieth Century Fox is planning to make Chronicle 2, the director and writer behind the original won't be involved at all. Since Chronicle grossed ten times its original budget at the box office, there seems little doubt that a sequel is still on the cards, but the studio has vetoed Landis' "darker" script for it.
This leaves Fox wanting for a new screenwriter and director to bring their "different direction" for the series to life, but luckily it also leaves Landis free from all professional obligation to keep quiet about what he wanted to do in the sequel. Since his version of Chronicle 2 has apparently hit a permanent roadblock, Landis has opened up a little about what we're missing out on.
Speaking to his fans on Twitter, Landis revealed that he didn't really want to make Chronicle 2 at all, but instead wanted to make a sequel called Martyr that focused on a new and entirely different character. The screenwriter admitted that, "in retrospect, I'm not even sure if fans of the first film would've been ready or eager for my second installment as originally written," but nonetheless outlined the themes that he'd intended to explore in the next chapter of the Chronicle story:
"Gone was the aspirational 'what would you do,' gone were the pranks and the bromance, gone were lovely tragic Andrew and hopeful, bright Steve. In their place was a dark, frustratingly unblinking stare into a complicated world that posed the question is it worth it to be a hero, told from the point of view of a heartbroken and insane woman who would martyr herself to the cause of being the world's first villain.
"It was, in my estimation, a sequel that elaborated on the ideas and situations from the first to create a different genre of movie. In the best of worlds, in my optimistic but wildly prejudiced eyes, this could make it an Aliens, a Terminator 2… in the worst a Grease 2. So, at the end of the day, maybe it's better that Martyr never saw the light of day. Sad I didn't get to do some of my other versions. The multi-movie low [budget] Chronicle-based found footage superhero universe culminating in an Avengers type team up was a real good one."
A fresh start with the focus on a new character might have been just what Chronicle needed in a sequel, since the original film's story was wrapped up quite neatly and most of the principal cast (comic book style resurrections notwithstanding) didn't make it all the way to the end credits. Somewhat predictably, Fox was not happy at the idea of leaving the successful first film behind and starting out on fresh, potentially risky, ground. Landis' father, famed writer and director John Landis (An American Werewolf in London), said in an interview last year that his son had offered Fox an "evolution" of the story, and the studio's response had been, "No, we want Chronicle again!"
Since the lucky (or unlucky?) teens of Chronicle received their powers through something of a fluke, discovering a mysterious crystal that had apparently fallen to earth, the continuation of the series would likely necessitate an explanation of how other people acquired similar powers. Interestingly, Landis suggested that he'd had gadget-based superpowers along the lines of Iron Man or Pacific Rim in mind:
"Martyr also had two pretty cool robot suits in it. Sorta hyper realistic Iron Man stuff. Magnetic flight, sonic weaponry. Cool, cool stuff."
The tweets offer a rather fascinating glimpse into what Landis had originally planned for his follow-up(s) to Chronicle: a model similar to the Marvel cinematic universe, but done on a much smaller budget with a realist aesthetic and sticking with found footage as the means of telling stories. Perhaps somewhere along the line Matt could have teamed up with the protagonist of Martyr, or gone up against her with an assembled team of amateur superheroes. It's a concept that comes with both significant challenges and a lot of potential, but it looks like it may remain nothing more than a pipe dream.
It's a shame, since if there's one place where it's less risky to take risks, it's in low-budget ventures. After all, this summer's biggest flop, The Lone Ranger, was considered to be a fairly safe bet before it lost Disney $190 million, but such a loss wouldn't have been possible on a film with a $12 million production budget. Fox might have benefited from simply handing Trank and Landis their modest financing and trusting the filmmaker's vision, however dark.
Do you like the sound of Martyr and Landis' low-budget superhero universe, or are you interested to see Chronicle 2 fall into new hands?
Chronicle 2 doesn't yet have a release date. Nor does it have a director, a script, any cast members or even a screenwriter (that we know of), but we'll keep you updated on any further developments.