Chronicle is an interesting twist on both the found footage/POV and superhero genres. Flick tells the story of abused and bullied Andrew (Dane DeHaan) who starts to “chronicle” his life on camera like so much of today’s Youtube generation feels the need to do. It’s at a rave one night that he and his cousin Matt (Alex Russell) and their friend Steve (Michael B. Jordan) stumble upon a mysterious glowing object they find in a hole in the ground while drunkenly wandering around. Contact with this object gives them what appear to be a form of telekinesis and soon the three are developing what can be simplified as super powers. What makes this aspect of Chronicle interesting is that these teens don’t become overgrown boy scouts like in the comics, they behave like typical teenagers probably would, if they acquired such powers. They have a good time with it and secretly hone their skills as Andrew documents. Andrew is an emotionally damaged young man who has to deal with an alcoholic father (Michael Kelly) and dying mother (Bo Petersen). Putting such power in his hands begins to give him a way to vent his rage and avenge his mistreatment at school and home. It’s no surprise that things will spiral out of control and people will get hurt.
Chronicle is well directed by Josh Trank from a script by Max Landis and is an overall effective film that only suffers from a little predictability and following certain formulas a little too closely in it’s last act. We know in the opening scenes that Andrew is unstable and it is obvious where this will all lead. We know as soon as the trio begin to flex their new psychokinetic muscle that the troubled Andrew would be the one to ignore the classic credo of “with great power comes great responsibility.” We know who he will eventually avenge himself upon and we also can easily see it will be the “conscience” of the trio, Matt, that will have to deal with it. The lead characters are likable enough, but the father and bully characters are pretty generic and, sadly, once Andrew turns to the dark side, he becomes so mean spirited that we are no longer sympathetic to him…though we do understand how he gets to this point. To a degree he becomes the super villain of the piece, but not one that is charismatic enough to intrigue us. He becomes exactly the kind of bully that used to make his life miserable, but on a bigger and more dangerous scale. It does echo real life, as sometimes the abused become abusers themselves…or serial killers. This does rob us, though, of continuing to care about him or sympathizing with his pain. This renders the last act into basically a ‘gee whiz’ POV FX showdown that we no longer have a strong emotional stake in. It becomes a routine, good vs evil final battle that has been done so many times before. We no longer want to see Andrew saved, just stopped. At least we do feel some sympathy for Matt who’s forced into a situation he doesn’t want to be in. It would have been far more interesting if we were led to believe that there was still some humanity left in Andrew, but there isn’t and it’s obvious what choices are left to Matt. That’s why the last act is the weakest part dramatically, despite some intense FX action during the climactic confrontation. It eventually becomes a more routine story of an abused character finding the power to avenge, like Carrie, albeit with a superhero twist, after beginning so interestingly. Still, Chronicle is an intriguing effort, if not a totally successful one. There was a lot to like about it and it can be disturbing, but It could have been even better had the filmmakers been a bit more daring in the final reel, as they were building up to it.