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 and a few laughs. They even pull pranks on unsuspecting people. One of them moves a parked car into a different parking space, leaving its owner confused. Another one sneaks into a toy store and makes a teddy bear float in front of a little girl, who can’t be any older than six or seven. She understandably screams in terror. Once they get this out of their systems, I can see how they would then fly through the clouds and toss around a football, never once stopping to consider the idea that they might be in the flight path of a passenger jet.
But what if these powers found their way into the life of a bullied, abused, socially awkward teen? At a certain point, it would no longer be enough to just have fun with it. In all likelihood, you would be pushed into using it against other people, people who have hurt you, humiliated you, ignored you for no real reason other than being who you are. High school can be a lot like that. The sad thing is that so few are willing to listen if someone is having a problem. It’s common to even excuse teenage cruelty and hatred as “kids being kids.” Some will look at this movie and see a reworking of the superhero genre, specifically the opening chapter in which the hero rises and the villain is unwittingly created. One could certainly make a case for such an interpretation. For whatever it’s worth, I see it more as a sad parable about how mistreatment can only be tolerated for so long before a breaking point is reached.
Taking place in suburban Seattle, the film is constructed, as many films are nowadays, as a found-footage mockumentary. Much of the action is shot by the story’s tragic figure, a high school senior named Andrew (Dane DeHaan) who has decided to document his life on videotape. His mother, whom he cares for deeply, lies in her bedroom dying of cancer. His father, an unemployed firefighter (Michael Kelly), is a bitter alcoholic who not only physically abuses Andrew but also blames him for all the family’s troubles. At school, he’s regularly picked on by many of the students. He gets along with his cousin, Matt (Alex Russell), although there’s always the sense that it hasn’t always been this way. One night, while attending a rave at an abandoned barn, Andrew, Matt, and a new friend named Steve (Michael B. Jordan) discover a hole in the middle of the woods and decide to go in. A quick journey through a series of underground tunnels leads to the discovery of a cavern containing ... something mysterious.
They quickly discover that their exposure to the object in the cave has given them super powers, including telekinesis and the ability to fly. It’s all fun and games until Andrew nearly kills a driver by pushing his car off the road and into a lake. Matt tries to establish some ground rules, although Andrew is less than receptive. Andrew then uses his powers to make himself more popular in school. Of course it works, but you can see his frustration building. These students are not really his friends; had he not performed amazing tricks at the school talent show, he would remain the outcast he had always been. And it’s not as if his home life has improved any. There are stages to Andrew’s emotional breaking point, but it begins when his mother is in dire need of an unaffordable prescription medication. In his distress, he begins to see himself as an apex predator, believing himself to be stronger and therefore more worthy than all other human beings.
Andrew’s footage, filmed on a camera that he can make float in the air, is occasionally intercut with footage shot by a girl named Casey (Ashley Hinshaw), an internet blogger. Her purpose is pretty much limited to being a plot device, as she provides the audience with a camera perspective different from Andrew’s. There are hints that she and Matt have a complicated romantic history, although it’s alluded to so infrequently and comes off as so contrived that it begs the question of why it was included in the first place.
And then there’s the issue of the film’s found-footage style, which was obviously chosen for its current marketability, especially in the horror genre. It works fairly well at first, but it gradually loses credibility until a climactic superhero-like duel on the streets of Seattle, at which point the illusion has shattered entirely. That’s because we not only have Andrew’s camera, but also surveillance equipment, police videos, civilian cell phones, and dozens of camcorders that just happen to be flying around Andrew and Matt as they hover near the Space Needle. I would think that, at that stage of the story, Andrew would long since have stopped documenting his life. The best bet would have been to shoot Chronicle with an ordinary omniscient camera. I don’t think any of the film’s more compelling aspects would have suffered as a result. And just think how nice it would have been to avoid the Queasy Cam.
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 … more
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 … more
*** 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 clichés. Better yet, it was done in found-footage style; and I've grown tired - ever so tired - of the … more
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 … more
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 … more
Growing up a shy kid in a quiet suburb of Los Angeles, Chris Pandolfi knows all about the imagination. Pretend games were always the most fun for him, especially on the school playground; he and his … more
Consider the Source
Use Trust Points to see how much you can rely on this review.
Opens tomorrow, February 3, 2012 | Runtime:1 hr. 24 min.
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.