Chronicle (2012)

Director: Josh Trank

Starring: Dane DeHaan, Alex Russell, Michael B. Jordan, Michael Kelly, Ashley Hinshaw

High school is an awkward period, with children either working too hard to maintain an image or doing as little as they can just so everyone will leave them alone. Sometimes the popular kids harass the silent types and that can lead to dangerous, even deadly confrontation in this day and age. Very rarely will you ever find the Class President actively hanging out with the weirdo who eats his lunch while sitting on the football bleachers. But, unless I missed an earth-shattering news report, you’re also not likely to hear of such kids exhibiting superpowers.

Andrew (Dane DeHaan) is the silent, insecure teen who is really into filming everything around him. It’s all about capturing the moment… and it’s also a handy card to play against his drunken father if he so happens to break Andrew’s door down and start beating the crap out of him like usual. Andrew’s father (Michael Kelly) is a former firefighter, out of a job and caring for Andrew’s mother, a cancer patient who is knocking at death’s door, further upset by the price tag on her medications. It’s an environment that would almost make you feel sorry for Andrew, if he didn’t come across as the kind of guy who probably burned ants with a magnifying glass as a kid. This side of his personality comes out after he, his cousin Matt (Alex Russell) and Class Presidential candidate Steve (Michael B. Jordan) all climb down a hole one day and are exposed to a rather large, glowing crystal-shaped object that they can’t explain (and thus it never is) but is almost certainly otherworldly. Whatever it is, it bestows superpowers upon all three teenagers, among which are telekinesis and flight.

In the early-going, the three all use their powers for personal amusement, including a really funny sequence at a department store. A side effect of overusing their powers is nosebleeds. They draw a comparison to the building of a muscle; their powers will increase and the nosebleeds will be less frequent the more they exercise their abilities. As teenagers often do, they think they can do anything until something goes horribly wrong, as it does when Andrew inadvertently causes a traffic accident. Rules are then established, but it’s pretty clear after this that they are in way over their heads, and the situation is waiting for just the right push to explode into a chaotic mess of death and destruction, turning the streets of Seattle, Washington into a war zone.

“Chronicle” is hardly the first of the ‘found footage’ movies, but it most certainly will not be the last. Like any that have come before it, “Chronicle” runs into its share of plot contrivances. Would you still be holding onto your camera and getting a pretty decent shot if you were falling from the Space Needle? The movie rises above this and presents an engaging story. Of course, the main reason to watch it is for the scenes of the boys using their powers, but Andrew’s scenes with his father are just as important. While all the action provides a comic book-like atmosphere and a fun superhero origin tale, its main focus is on the supervillain.

Andrew is the Magneto of this piece. His powers have given him an outlet to get back at everyone who, in his eyes, has done him wrong, and also to prove that his newfound talents make him a superior being. Do we feel sorry, he posits at one point, when we step on a bug? Indeed, most of us treat our actions towards fellow homo sapiens differently from our relationships with the other creatures of this world. That’s where a mature hand is vital in keeping us on the correct path. The X-Men have Professor Charles Xavier, Superman has Jonathan Kent, and Spider-Man had Ben Parker to explain the difference between right and wrong. Andrew is a lost soul who only has two similarly powered friends of equal immaturity with which to share his world. But even those of us who live normal lives would do well to heed the words, “With great power comes great responsibility.”

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