Andrew Detmer does not have an easy life. His mom is sick, his dad is abusive and he get teased and bullied at school and in the neighborhood. His only real friend is his cousin Matt, though how much of that friendship is based on familial obligation rather than actual affection is unclear. One night the boys attend a party in the woods. Along with fellow classmate Steve (Friday Night Lights and Parenthood’s Michael B. Jordan) the boys stumble upon a mysterious cavern. The next day, they wake up with super powers. Chronicle examines how the boys develop their skills and deal with their new found power.
If the premise sounds familiar it is because it is. Just about every super hero movie starts out basically the same way: ordinary person through some chain of events, whether a spider bite or gamma ray exposure, becomes super human. What differentiates Chronicle is that despite the given implausibility of the genre, it a fairly realistic portrayal of what would happen if three teenagers suddenly had super powers. They have no interest in saving the world or righting society’s wrongs; they would rather use their new abilities to win beer pong and play pranks. Much of the film in devoted to the trial and error that occurs as they figure out what they are capable of. Unlike other movies, they don’t immediately master their skills. They discover that their powers are like a muscle – it must always be used to stay strong and develop, but they must not do too much too quickly or it will “tear.” Along this journey, the three boys become close friends. Watching them bond over their shared experience and super human abilities is the most enjoyable and funny portion of the film.
However, all that is gold cannot stay. After a lifetime of being made to feel worthless, Andrew’s first taste of power taps into some of his darker anti-social tendencies. As the most talented of the group, he begins to use his powers in more sinister ways. The last half hour of the movie is focused on the struggle of the other two boys to rein Andrew in and culminates in some pretty spectacular special effects.
Though this movie will never be mistaken for art, it was a fun ride. It was much funnier than expected and though it started off as fairly predictable, it managed to find some new and interesting things to say. The film is also told solely through video cameras, similar to Cloverfield, Paranormal Activity, or The Blair Witch Project. However, unlike those movies, the footage does not just derive only from Andrew’s omnipresent camcorder, but also from video surveillance cameras and street cams. While this technique has clearly been used in other genres, it added an interesting spin to this film and further distanced itself from other similar movies.
With an hour and twenty minute run time, the movie is on the short side. The ending probably could have used some work. There is kind of a pointless little romance that doesn’t necessarily fit with the rest of the story, other than it is helpful that she also likes to tote around a video camera. But for a fun popcorn movie it was enjoyable and a different approach to a familiar story.
Chronicle opens nationwide on Friday February 3.