Movie Review: Chronicle (2012)

Davis Entertainment
Runtime: 84 Minutes
Rated: PG-13 (for intense action and violence, thematic material,
some language, sexual content and teen drinking)
Director: Josh Trank
Writers: Max Landis
Starring: Dane DeHaan, Alex Russell, Michael B. Jordan
Action | Drama | Sci-Fi

Teenagers by themselves can be frightfully stupid. Add in super powers and you have a catastrophic recipe for disaster. And that is what we have in Chronicle. The lives of three teenagers are forever altered when they come to obtain super powers from an encounter with a strange object.

Thinking only of things that are anything but disaster, “Matt” (Alex Russell) and “Steve” (Michael B. Jordan) are ordinary kids who enjoy the preppy side of a life with more friends than they need. Their friend, “Andrew” (Dane DeHaan) happens to be the odd one out. He is the anti-social, picked-on recluse who turns for comfort to chronicling his miserably bleak life with an abusive father (Michael Kelly) and dying mother (Bo Petersen) with an old camera he takes with him everywhere, much to the scorn of his peers.

And speaking of scorn, Andrew has a lot to learn. The entire movie is about what we are waiting for him to get: That a loser without super powers is an even bigger loser with super powers. Life is a damn cruel place no matter how you crack it, or for whom. If you are unfit for it with the tools available to all human beings, you don’t deserve to live in it and will only screw it up with otherworldly abilities.

Now that is such a coolly fantabulous premise that I can barely contain myself, but everything we ever get to see is camcorder, police dash cam, gas station CCTV, or other camera-based footage. This need not be an automatic deal-breaker for viewers, but there was simply no reason to produce the film this way, especially not when we face the same problem as in nearly every other modern take on camcorder movies—they can’t always justify taking the camera everywhere or else having audio with whatever footage is available. It just doesn’t work as well with movies like this one with deep, pulpy plots.

At first, we have a group of immature kids playing around with these unexplained powers (and seeming rather un-wowed by them). We are drawn into a world of pranks and good times until an accident involving an aggressive driver lets them know what any adult would know: kids + super powers = the world is in trouble in a big way.

The entire rest of the film reinforces this fact through Andrew’s abusive father, his mother’s illness, and his own daily disconnect from what it means to at least try to blend in with his fellow humans. But now, Andrew identifies with something other than human and we get to watch this deadly psychological metamorphosis take place.

Chronicle is one badass movie not because of what it accomplishes (which is really not that much when you break it down), but because of what it stirs up—a captivating sense of peril with a philosophical realization that is despairingly true. It handles the subject matter well while we don't lack in reminders of how clueless kids can be and the terrible decisions they can make.

While teens are unquestionably our target audience here, no one at nearly any age can miss out on what this film has to offer. Its failures lie in one unforgivable cliché and some melodrama to finish out the story. Okay, I’ll go ahead and just say it: they just couldn’t resist killing off the black guy! I was so pissed! Have the last five decades in film taught us anything with regard to handling expendable characters?