Sci-Fi Thriller Features Teens Flexing Superpowers
Andrew (Dane DeHaan) bought a camera to videotape his every waking moment, despite the fact that his life’s a miserable mess. The proverbial 98-pound weakling would be totally ostracized at his high school, where he’s routinely teased by bullies, were it not for the intervention of his cooler cousin, Matt (Alex Russell).
The situation at home is just as bad, between being the butt of his disabled father’s (Michael Kelly) incessant verbal abuse, and having to watch his terminally-ill mother (Bo Peterson) gasp for oxygen.
Everything changes the evening Matt invites his cousin to attend a party with him. Once there, Andrew is asked by a classmate, Steve (Michael B. Jordan), to bring his camera outside to film a strange hole he’s found in the woods. The three proceed to descend deep into the cave until they encounter a mysterious glowing object, and instantly pass out.
Fast forward a few weeks, and all three teens are magically transformed, having gradually developed psychic powers, superhuman strength and the ability to fly. Initially, they just use their newfound skills to try some sophomoric pranks like blasting air up girls’ skirts, telepathically moving a parked car to a different spot on a lot, and scaring a kid in a toy store by levitating a teddy bear.
But while the relatively well-adjusted Matt and Steve are satisfied with such benign experiments, social outcast Andrew opts to escalate, as he sees this as his opportunity to turn the tables on a cruel world which has treated him so badly. And after running an annoying tailgater’s car into a ditch with the wave of his hand, he ignores his buddies’ pressure only to employ his powers for good. Instead, he indulges his darker impulses, while Matt and Steve become increasingly worried about Andrew’s bloodlust.
That is the captivating premise of Chronicle, a riveting, sci-fi thriller marking the impressive directorial debut of Josh Trank. Given that this is a “found-footage” flick, it makes sense that much of the dizzying production would have been shot from the perspective of a shaky, hand-held camera. As for invidious comparisons, the movie measures-up well against the best of the genre, being a lot closer to Cloverfield than to The Blair Witch Project.
Surprisingly-sophisticated for a teen-oriented adventure, Chronicle’s script even departs, periodically, from the grisly into intellectual asides about the philosophies of Plato, Jung and Schopenhauer. My only complaint about the film is the pessimistic picture it paints of humanity, implying that we might be naturally more inclined towards malice than compassion.
A relentlessly-grim overhaul of Revenge of the Nerds into a comic book superhero saga with shades of Lord of the Flies.
Very Good (3 stars)
Rated PG-13 for profanity, mature themes, sexuality, teen drinking and intense violence.
Running time: 83 minutes
Distributor: 20th Century Fox
To see a trailer for Chronicle: