Movie Review: Chronicle

I can crush cars... bo-yah

There have been a host of stories over the years about teenagers developing super human powers… from Spider-Man, to the X-Men, to the now defunct television series Heroes… yet none have dealt with the subject as believably and as entertainingly as Chronicle has.

Filmed in a hand held Blair Witch style, the movie opens with Andrew (Dane DeHaan) filming his bedroom door as his father tries to get into his room.  Immediately, we understand his father (Dawn of the Dead’s Michael Kelly) to be an abusive drunk and Andrew has decided to film the great crap hole that is his life.  I almost expected this to be an “it gets better” video… and it does get better… for a while. 

After delving into Andrew’s life at school and into his relationship with his cousin Matt (Alex Russell), Andrew is coerced into going to a rave in an abandoned warehouse.  It is here that Andrew, Matt and the ridiculously charismatic and popular Steve (Michael B. Jordan), who, incidentally, is running for school president, discover a sink hole… which leads to a cave… which leads to some glowing crystal light show… which leads to… telekinesis.

What would three teenage boys in their senior year of high school do with telekinesis?  Yes… they eventually lift a skirt or two… but what becomes fascinating is how each one of the three begins to view and use their powers differently.  Vacillating between excitement and fear, Steve is having a great time… Matt is concerned about setting up some ground rules… and Andrew… well, Andrew now has friends for the first time in his life.  Andrew no longer feels powerless.  Andrew is a nice kid… in a shitty situation.

One of the worst aspects about paying such close attention to upcoming movies and pop culture in general is the lack of surprise at times.  Chronicle seemed to appear out of nowhere.  One minute I was bemoaning the lack of anything solid in the theaters and the next, I’m hearing about some superhero movie hitting #1 in the box office.  Fortunately… that isn’t quite accurate.  There are no costumes, no crime fighting, no villains… just three teenagers with telekinetic powers and the lack of maturity in knowing how to deal with them.

Much credit should be given to Chronicle for being one of the better paced movies I’ve seen in a while.  At an extremely trim 83 minutes, the story grabs you early, and the progression from there feels incredibly real and believable.  I never felt the story drag… and for as outlandish of an idea telekinesis may be, how they develop those powers and strengthen them seems completely germane to the world we live in. 

A while ago I was listening to a podcast from a movie critic I adore; he was reviewing Wall-E.  In that podcast, he discussed how the first 45 minutes of that film were all but perfect… he then lamented the fact that every film maker feels the need to deliver an hour and a half to two hour product… regardless of quality.  His point was, if a film is perfect at 45 minutes… don’t stretch it out.  Either offer up a reduced ticket price, or fill the remaining time with shorts and/or cartoons.  I have always been a fan of the four hour epic… but I’m increasingly becoming a fan of the 90 minute format.  If a story can be told well in 83 minutes… even better.  Chronicle does just that… tells a great story with a fantastic arc in a tight and concise format.

Like many of the recent hand held camera films, you eventually get adjusted to the shakiness and quick cuts… and once you are adjusted, the camera begins to steady a bit and eventually bits of the story are told from the perspective of another hand held camera and from closed circuit footage.  I do think there were a few traditionally filmed scenes… but they were edited into the film in such a way that you don’t even notice the switch.

Chronicle is by far one of the better films that I’ve seen in a while.  Although I have not given myself much time to reflect on it… I just saw it within the last few hours; it was exhilarating and kept me interested throughout.  Perhaps time will pass and this will be but a tiny blip of a movie… one of those that will pop up on cable in a few years and you will simply watch it because it’s on.  I can’t say it paved the road for anything truly “new”… but it did at least manage to veer away from most super hero tropes and give a welcome twist to the idea of “super humans”. 

What would you do if you could manipulate the world around you with nothing but your mind?  See Chronicle and decide for yourself.

So much flannel… it must be Seattle,
Cornelius J. Blahg

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