It's all fun and games until you almost get hit by a plane. Actually, no, that only applies to people with more than half a brain. When you're dealing with a group of teenagers, who literally don't know what the word "hubris" means, the fun continues until someone gets hurt. Then it continues some more. Will these kids stop before it's too late?
Chronicle is about three high school seniors who gain telekinetic powers after finding a weird crystal in a hole in the ground. Popular Steve (Michael B Jordan) and philosophical Matt (Alex Russell) just want to have fun with silly pranks; brooding Andrew (Dane De Haan) wants a lot more. He's tired of being his drunkard dad's punching bag and being treated like a weirdo at school. (Carrying around a camera to film his life doesn't help.) Now's the time for his revenge. Can his move to the dark side be stopped before he turns into yet another villain cliché?
A lot of fun to watch
Despite the fact that it's somewhat predictable, Chronicle was a lot of fun to watch. What makes it particularly impressive is the fact that this is the first film by writer Max Landis and director Josh Trank, both of whom are only 26! Because of their age, the dialogue feels natural and is often exactly what you'd expect from a group of high school students.
However, the "found footage" genre doesn't always fit. Perhaps the point was to make everything seem more real. That worked rather well in movies like The Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity, both of which scared me like very few horrors do.
Still, making it seem real is what makes the special effects seem fake. That wasn't a problem in Cloverfield, probably because the budget was huge. For Chronicle, which was filmed in South Africa for only USD12 million, the effects can only go so far. Yes, some of them (like when the boys are playing football in the clouds) are great; others just make you laugh and cringe.
Abusing our powers leads to more suffering
Ultimately, Chronicle is a movie that makes you think a lot about the powers we have and what we'd do if we had even more. And yet, despite the fact that we can't use our minds to bend forks or crush cars, we're already quite powerful. That's because all the things we say and do have a huge effect on us and on the world. Even the little things have meaning (as Drew Dudley pointed out in his recent TED Talk about everyday leadership). That means we need to make sure we're using our powers for our good and for the good of everyone else.
At the same time, we need to stop and realise that abusing our powers will only lead to more suffering. Take anger. For some stupid reason, we often think that getting revenge will somehow make us feel better. Um, it doesn't. Instead, it always leaves us worse off, just like picking up a burning coal to throw at someone else will hurt us too (and might not even hurt the other person at all).
Perhaps Andrew should have spent more time reading, like Matt, and less time filming his life as a way to escape. Then he might have come across what Alexandre Dumas had to say in The Count of Monte Cristo: "Hatred is blind and anger deaf: the one who pours himself a cup of vengeance is likely to drink a bitter draught." Bitter indeed.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Running Time: 1 hours, 24 minutes
Age Restriction: 13 (contains epic violence and teens talking trash)