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A 2012 movie directed by Josh Trank

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With Great Power Comes the Loss of Control

  • Feb 16, 2012

We've all heard this story before.  A teenager (or a couple) stumbles upon something extraordinary and they get powers.  Before the idea has often been that they'll use these powers to start fighting crime, or perhaps helping the cops... or getting laid.  Or maybe all of the above.  Either way, Chronicle is much more about the mystery and curiosity than it is about justice and perserverence.  It's not a super hero movie and I'm pretty sure no one is going in expecting it.  Rather it's about three teenagers who stumble upon something, find out they have telekinetic abilities as a result and we watch as a special bond they share as a result... shatters. 

Andrew is a kid in high school and he's like your stereotypical adolescent nerd in high school.  His school mates find him weird.  Girls don't want to date him and he's constantly picked on.  Things are not going any better at home.  HIs mother is dying and his dad is a drunken loser who beats him.  Even his cousin Matt tries to pretend he doesn't exist.  Being a lonely kid he doesn't have much to latch onto.  What he does have, however, is a video camera that he can use to video tape all the happenings.   Another thing that people say just makes him weird.  From here Andrew decides to video tape everything.  No real reason other than he wants to.  And why not?  He has no friends.  And throughout a few people tend to say things to him like, "You're weird, put that away."

I know most people are not fans of the "handheld camera" thing, but Chronicle actually makes it work.  You won't be sold on it immediately.  For instance, there isn't much reason for Andrew to actually have the damn thing at the start.  But when he goes to a party and meets up with his cousin Matt and the class President, Steve Montgomery, they head off into the woods and find a hole.  When they crawl in and explore the cave underneath they come across a crystal.  Things get weird and go black.  And remember, we're seeing this (at first) all through Andrew's eyes.  He's filming it all.  But because of how the handheld camera stuff is done, we of course never see any of their recovery.  The next time we see them is when Andrew has a new camera.  But now the idea is that he wants to film what they've discovered.  That being their newfound gifts.  They all think it's so cool that they HAVE to film it. 

And this is probably what works best about Chronicle.  The characters are actually good characters because they take this idea of a teenagers getting these powers and instead have them actually act like teenagers who got new powers.  The mess around and try to see all the things they can do.  They play pranks, they joke with each other and explore this newfound curiosity.  Anyone can find some way to relate to these characters.  After all, if you were a teen who just discovered this you'd probably be exploring too.

Of course, it's not all fun and games as they quickly learn that they are going to have to take some responsibility with their powers.  This is unveiled in a scene in which Andrew accidentally sends a truck careening off the side of a bridge.  And as a result, the film begins to take more serious and mysterious turns.  It's not hard to see where Chronicle is going.  These characters learn about their powers, but also learn about how they can (and are) amplified.  They start off doing small things like throwing a baseball and making it stay dormant in front of them.  Or Andrew using his powers to make his camera float so that he doesn't have to hold it himself.  Or perhaps even going to the school talent show and showcasing "talent."  But they also do bigger things such as fly or move objects such as cars and even a bus in one scene.

The moments in which they're exploring their powers is much more amusing than anything else.  The movie isn't long, however and it's not long before we realize that Andrew is not just your typical nerd, but your typical angsty teenager as well.  And what we soon learn, as do his tormentors and even his cousin and one friend learn... these powers can be very dangerous in the hands of an angry teenager... who is in little to no control of his emotions at all.  The final moments are not subtle in any sense of the word but they are amazing to watch for a film such as this.  When Andrew finally snaps and sends an entire city into chaos.  It's amazing stuff.  Almost like watching a modern day version of Carrie.

Chronicle's biggest strength, however, is its cinematography.  Since this is all being "chronicled" and we're seeing it all through actual cameras (although not quite "found footage" stuff like Cloverfield or The Blair Witch Project) that give the movie a sense of realism.  During the climax, for example, we see the action take place all over.  Not just from Andrew's camera (who is making it film this whole thing) but also from ANY camera.  Chronicle doesn't just limit itself to Andrew's camera.  It's literally any camera that's around.  In the final fight for instance, you'll see some of the footage from a security camera.  Part of the reason the footage is all there is because Andrew just happened to use his powers to make a bunch of iPads and Cell phones float around him (although it isn't to film himself, it's actually to stop the onlookers from filming him).  It's actually more unique than it appears.

The other strength is the acting.  Again, mostly because the teenagers here are actually acting like teenagers.  They joke around with each other and poke fun.  It never goes overboard with what it's trying to do with its characters.  There are some moments in Chronicle that are definitely predictable.  Things you'll know are going to happen.  The movie simply doesn't make any secrets about what it is.  But this is also part of why it's enjoyable.  In the end, Chronicle is about one angsty teenager's slip into depression and sadness by his tormentors and slowly coming to the realization that he doesn't HAVE to be anymore.  On paper it sounds typical but the execution is far better than most of your average teen movies out there.  It's hard not to enjoy. because the presentation is so well done.  The pacing and the rising action is done so well.  Particularly watching Andrew undergo his radical changes.

If there was anything that might boggle the mind of some movie-goers, it's that the ending is just all around awkward.  Some are likely to think the movie just... ends.  The style most certainly calls for it, but some movie-goers might not be satisfied at what they may only describe as an awkward ending.  Especially given the climax of the film.  It just seems like a lost child that has no where else to go.  Strangely enough, I rather liked that aspect about the film.  The event that was to be chronicled is chronicled by that point.  All that was left was to provide a sense of closure.  It's not happy or sad (if anything the character involved feels regret) it's just there to show us that there is still a mystery left open.  Some have wondered if Chronicle should have a sequel.  It probably shouldn't.  Some things ARE left open by the end.  The film intentionally leaves these things open (for example, we simply never learn about this thing that gave them their powers, and the characters themselves remain curious).  But sometimes you just can't have all the answers.

It's a short film.  One that will likely entertain quite a few people.  It's a good film in and of itself.  It's stylized well but keeps from getting too self-indulgent.  The characters are interesting, the situation is interesting and what little action there is will excite you. It's worth seeing.

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February 18, 2012
Interesting story!
February 16, 2012
I liked this flick- it wasn't my favorite but, it was very entertaining. I think he had the camera in the beginning to help protect him against his abusive dad. But, that's just my guess! I have the same question about the sequel- Matt's still flying around and he's on a quest to find out what was in that hole. We never did see what that was....Great write-up, Sean!
February 16, 2012
Good observations. I agree with your review and I also don't think that this should have a sequel. It was good as a one-shot and to follow up on the story will not work, since its unknown elements made it work. Nice to see you drop a review again.
More Chronicle (2012 film) reviews
review by . February 05, 2012
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Power Corrupts Absolutely....Especially When You're in Over Your Head
The POV documentary style cinematography and first person perspective have made certain sleeper hits such as “Paranormal Activity” and “The Blair Witch Project”. Their lack of a huge budget made the films different and it made them carry with them a certain charm that attracted viewers. Other films followed suit and they mostly had one thing in common: they were all mostly part of the horror genre. Well, seems like writers/directors Josh Trank and Max Landis is stepped outside …
review by . February 05, 2012
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*** out of ****    When the first trailer for a mysterious little film called "Chronicle" made its debut via Youtube and the rest of the worldwide web; I was left dazed and confused upon viewing it. This appeared to be a film of ambition; in the sense that it was attempting to blend elements of both a frat comedy and a superhero origin story filled to the top with tropes and clich├ęs. Better yet, it was done in found-footage style; and I've grown tired - ever so tired - of the …
review by . February 04, 2012
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Star Rating:         Chronicle makes a compelling case for what would happen if a group of teenage boys were to suddenly attain superhuman powers. They would not stare at each other in awe, as if they had just been touched by the hand of God. They would have fun with it, not just at their expense, but also at the expense of others. Initially, the boys in this film behave like the cast of Jackass, using their powers to pull dangerous stunts strictly for cheap thrills …
review by . February 25, 2012
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If you could have a superpower, what would it be? That's a popular icebreaker question and you can tell a lot about a person by how they answer it. Though there are numerous answers, flight and x-ray vision are two that often come up. Often those who answer "flight" are those who are extremely altruistic while those that answer "x-ray vision" are usually very self-centered and conceited. The possibility of humans, particularly teenagers, gaining such abilities is the plot …
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               By Joan Alperin Schwartz      Every so often a film surprises me...Sometimes in a good way...Sometimes in a not so good way.   Walking into the screening of 'Chronicle' directed by Josh Trank, I was expecting to see a movie that I've seen way too many times...teenagers get superpowers and fight evil doers.      Wow, was I happily surprised...Yes...teenagers do …
About the reviewer
Sean A. Rhodes ()
Ranked #7
I'm a more analytical person. I believe that the purpose of the review is not for me to give you my opinion but for me to give you an analysis and help you decide if you want to get it. If you reading … more
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About this movie


  • Opens tomorrow, February 3, 2012 | Runtime:1 hr. 24 min.
  • PG-13
    Some Language, Sexual Content, Intense Action and Violence, Teen Drinking and Thematic Material
  • Andrew (Dane DeHaan) is a socially awkward, introverted teen whose main form of escape and expression is a video camera. But things begin to change when Andrew, his cousin Matt (Alex Russell) and popular classmate Steve (Michael B. Jordan) discover a mysterious substance that leave them with incredible powers. As their abilities become more powerful, the teens' lives spin out of control when their darker sides begin to emerge. Andrew's camera captures the unfolding events.
  • Director: Jay Alaimo
  • Genres: Action/Adventure, Suspense/Thriller
  • Teaser poster art for "Chronicle."
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    Director: Josh Trank
    Screen Writer: Max Landis

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