Following three high school seniors who gain telekinetic abilities in the modern world is the basic premise of the science fiction thriller Chronicle. It’s a fun movie that starts to slowly descend into darkness.
Portrayed as a found footage film, Chronicle feels like the Blair Witch Project meets Carrie. Unlike those two films though, there is a lot more humor in Chronicle and a greater sense of awe and wonder. The film puts together a great series of action and discovery scenes making the film surprisingly fun to watch.
While the film, which was made on a small budget, suffers from some of the pitfalls there, its major weakness is its ending – which requires a serious sense of disbelief on the character developing end of things. Albeit its flaws, Chronicle is still an entertaining movie for people looking for action and drama.
Three high school seniors – Andrew, Matt, and Steve – discover a glowing rock inside a suspicious looking hole in the ground. Shortly after this discovery, and after touching the rock, all three of the seniors discover they have telekinesis.
Andrew, Matt, and Steve begin to bond over their new found abilities and use them for personal convenience and to play the occasional prank. Over time they discover the more they use their telekinetic powers the more powerful they become. Eventually this leads to conflict between the friends as Andrew who has had a rough time growing up begins to use his abilities for revenge.
Stylistically speaking, Chronicle feels like a two part film. The first half functions almost like a superhero film where Andrew, Matt, and Steve begin to develop their telekinesis and discover new abilities. This is the mostly fun part of the film where the characters play pranks on people, mostly by scaring them, or confusing them by moving objects near them. The second half of the film feels a lot like Carrie as Andrew starts to grow angry and resentful and begins to use his telekinesis in acts of revenge on people who he feels are creating injustices in his life.
Andrew is the strongest character in this film. Being a senior in high school, the film avoids the pitfalls of creating typical high school melodrama by giving Andrew some very dramatic real world problems at the start of the film. His father is an unemployed abusive alcoholic and his mother is terminally ill and in constant pain. That’s not to say Andrew doesn’t have typical high school problems – he’s not good at dating or making friends, and he has issues with school bullies.
All of these problems make Andrew a very sympathetic character, and they make his descent towards darkness all the more believable and horrible to watch. There are plenty of times during Andrew’s revenge where the audience will more than likely be cheering his actions, despite there inherently evil nature.
Matt and Steve are two likeable characters who often function as the voice of reason. Steve’s immense popularity in high school creates a nice clash against Andrew’s isolation. The acceptance Steve receives from society is a great contradiction to Andrew’s rejection by it. This proves to be one of the central forces behind the decisions each of these characters make, while providing a critical look on society in general.
Matt, who is Andrew’s cousin in the film, is a laid back philosopher. He’s not misconstrued as a nerd, and more often than not he comes across as a jock, but he largely functions to contradict Andrew’s cynical beliefs about humanity and power. This is one of the areas where the film misses the mark. Often times Matt’s delving into intellectual subject matter, or attempted delvings, are brushed off by other characters simple one liners that accuse Matt of being not fun or cynical.
The film wishes to push a deeper meaning across to viewers, but it fails to achieve much of anything here. The issues that could be explored such as the dangers of acquiring power, and the belief in Social Darwinism, are touched upon in the film and provide great potential for depth, but they never get passed a surface level exploration.
A lot of the failures here are due to the dismissal of Matt’s ideas early in the film, as he is the symbolic representation for philosophy and thinking in the film. As thought becomes more important while the film progresses, Matt’s role as a protagonist is undermined by his earlier dismissals, and unfortunately he comes across looking dumb. Viewers may find themselves asking, “why should I care what Matt thinks,” when the film clearly calls for the viewer to be on his side.
The film does do a good job of showing how negatively abuse can psychologically effect a person, via the sufferings of Andrew. The scenes where he is in conflict with his father are particularly tense, and they are among the best scenes in the film that require dramatic acting.
The script does an excellent job of creating realistic sounding dialogue that’s reflective of high school kids, while remaining simultaneously true to the found footage style the film is made in. Dialogue more often feels genuine, rather than rehearsed, and characters stumble on words, and occasionally rant, giving an improvised feeling to the script.
Far from perfect, but not eye-gougeingly terrible, Chronicle is a ultimately a film that explores relevant social issues in today’s world, while simultaneously throwing in a lot of humor and action sequences to make the film enjoyable.