STARRING: Dane DeHaan, Michael B. Jordan,
Michael Kelly, Alex Russell, Ashley Hinshaw
2012, 83 Minutes, Directed by:
low budget teen thriller Chronicle might have managed something
interesting if they had focused on a script that didn’t pile cliché atop cliché
. . .
The story is credited to
director Josh Trank and screenwriter Max Landis (son of director John Landis),
and so they really have no one to blame but themselves. This is an opportunity
Andrew (Dane DeHaan) is a nerdy
kid who likes to record things with his video camera, and doesn’t have many
friends. In fact, as we see, he is bullied by kids in school and by his father
(Michael Kelly) at home. One night at a high school party Andrew is called out
by his cousin Matt (Alex Russell) and his friend Steve (Michael B. Jordan). They
found something mysterious in a hole in the ground and want Andrew to record it.
It’s not quite clear what
they’ve found, but the next thing we know, Andrew, Matt and Steve seem to have
developed extraordinary powers. They can move things by the power of thought.
They can defy gravity. What’s more, these powers are increasing over time. So
what to do with three adolescents with unimaginable power?
The movie might have survived
the now clichéd use of found footage. Everything we see was recorded by Andrew,
or by security cameras, or by Casey (Ashley Hinshaw), the cute blonde who also
happens to bring a camera everywhere.
"The story is so predictable that you have to assume the
filmmakers have never been to the movies!"
Yet as the story progresses
it’s clear that Trank and Landis don’t have anything to say other than that
they’re making a movie with special effects. We see the teen friends enjoy their
powers, then show off a bit, and then things go wrong.
What goes wrong is that Andrew,
tired of being the victim, decides he’s going to be the bully instead.
At that point the film turns
into how Matt and Steve have to deal with the out of control Andrew. One wishes
that the filmmakers had been picked on by bullies themselves while they were
growing up. They might have learned that the victim-as-villain story they’ve
chosen to tell was the wrong way to go.
It’s not that Andrew
overreacts. It’s that he becomes the villain of the story. So the message of the
film seems to be that – superpowers or no – it’s better to be one of the cool
kids. Victims deserve what they get.
There are other clichés trotted
out, but to note them would be to spoil some of the plot elements.
Suffice to say who lives and
who dies in the story is so predictable that you have to assume the filmmakers
have never been to the movies and don’t have a clue how obvious it all is.
Adolescent anxieties ought to provide fertile ground for transformation into
science fiction and fantasy. By telling us that the problem with bullied teens
is not their victimization but what they might do if they could fight back,
Chronicle sides with the thugs, a not very pleasant place to be.