The self-documentation found footage strategy decimates the story’s potential. Chronicle is about two happy high school guys and one depressed dude who abuse their X-Men like superpowers in Seattle, Washington. They are supposed to represent the everyday high school kids who just happen to luck into their powers, but they take too much liberty with them. Seattle is on the map, so you wonder why no U.S. government enforcers catch on when these guys start flying around (UFO’s don’t have to be alien paraphernalia. Unidentified Flying Objects are picked up on radar, you know). The three boys talk about sticking to the “rules” but the angry and rebellious kid won’t adhere. Ultimately, the movie succeeded in one way, ahem, it succeeded in leaving me depressed afterwards.
But how can you not be depressed by Andrew Detmer? As portrayed by Dane DeHann, he’s a wallowing loner who carries an HD camcorder around everywhere he goes, including barn parties. You’d think he’d stay home one night and work on editing his listless footage. Sure there’s sympathy here, alas, Andrew has a dying mother and a father that beats him.
His cousin Matt (Alex Russell) is Andrew’s closest, if reluctant, friend. Then there’s the popular black kid Steve (Michael B. Jordan) who has no other black friends. The three of them get touched by an extraterrestrial force, and hours later, the trio learns of their telekinetic powers. Their first public display is at a toy store, naturally toying around with other kids or moms with anthropomorphic shopping carts.
Since Andrew is a budding sociopath, he’s the first to misuse his powers (coldly, he forces a road rage driver into a wreck). Social progress commences for him at school, but just as he’s near reaching acceptance, he has his setbacks. Andrew only sees the bright side temporarily. One party faux pas and then he’s Superman’s evil alter ego. He embarks on a robbery that goes awry, and then blows everybody up. He doesn’t have a case of evil jollies when he’s inflicting harm – he’s a joyless anarchist. What’s the long-term plan, boy?
Does it seem impossible to write a movie where an unassuming teenage boy figures out a way to become popular with his new gifts, and take over the world with gleeful megalomania? Or, if to be not mischievous but noble, use their powers to force extraordinary changes in the world? The final scene is the work of saps. Also, the documentary gimmick is stretched beyond reason.
83 Minutes. Rated PG-13.
ACTION-ADVENTURE / SUPERNATURAL / LATE NIGHT THRILLS
Film Cousins: “Carrie” (1976); “Scanners” (1981); “The Blair Witch Project” (1999); “Cloverfield” (2008).