What would you do if you could do anything? This is the question Chronicle, the new movie with the unfortunate name asks its’ audience. This new sci-fi thriller explores this notion through the lives of three teenagers and is “chronicled” through one’s video camera. Though, not a true “found footage” film, Chronicle is similar enough to wonder how much better this movie could have been without this gimmick.
The movie begins in the home of Andrew (Dane DeHaan) who is having a hard with life. He is poor, his mother is dying, his father is an out-of-work alcoholic and he is picked on at school. He announces to his dad that he would start to film everything in his life “from now on.” This makes no sense and Andrew is constantly telling others on the other end of the lens that he’s filming. Since Andrew can’t be in every scene, the writers created a female character that is also video enthusiast, to cover the parts of the story that Andrew isn’t in. So much work goes into making the scenes look natural that they end up feeling forced. Fortunately, the story is better than the execution.
When he isn’t home taking care of his mother, Andrew is hanging out with his cousin Matt (Alex Russell) and new friend Steve (Michael B. Jordan). One night, the three discover a cave which for some reason gives them powerful telekinetic abilities. They don’t think too much of it as first, but soon, they become stronger and learn how to how move things with their minds. They start using these skills to pull off pranks and Andrew starts to show off some of his skills to become popular around the school campus. The three even learn how to fly. But life isn’t completely better for Andrew. His mother is still sick, his father is still abusive and he has few real friends. Sometimes he lets his anger get the best of him and he takes things out on others. Andrew is no longer a “safe person.” Noticing this, Matt and Steve try to lay down some ground rules for using their powers. Andrew more or less agrees with them until he gets ticked off.
Set in Seattle, Chronicle isn’t a perfect movie, but it is good story telling. It’s part Hancock and part Stephen King’s Carrie. Clocking in at less than 90 minutes, its pace is swift and engaging. Still, the story is too silly to take it seriously. The “teen” stars are really in their twenties, there are some “why would anyone be filming that?” scenarios, some clunky dialogue and unintentional humor. It might even make you re-think about dining on top of the Space Needle ever again.
Chronicle is a morality tale and a great example of what unresolved bitterness and anger can do to a person. What could have been seen as a gift to do good for others is soon seen as a way to control people. As Andrew loses his temper more and more, he also cares less and less for others. Bad things can happen to good people, but it’s what we do in these situations that makes us who we are. We may face similar circumstances by no fault of our own. But if we let anger and resentment fester inside of us without allowing something (or someone) greater than ourselves to help us, we will ultimately destroy ourselves.
Though Chronicle does have some light moments, it’s pretty much a downer. It’s rated PG-13 but take care before you bring your kid to this movie. It features some language, scenes of drinking and violence. However, it might up the doors open for a great discussion on the way home.
(Main Image: 20th Century Fox)
I write about pop culture, arts and entertainment in the greater Seattle area.