Chronicle (2012) (PG-13)

"Chronicle" is a curious movie because it is not exactly what it seems, thought what it seems is arguably muddled as well It's a superhero movie, a loss of innocence drama, the story of friendship, a warning against bullying, and the change of mindset in a teenager.
Andrew (Dane DeHaan) is not a popular kid and pretty much has everything going badly for him. He has a mother who's dying (of what disease, it doesn't matter, only that it is an expensive disease), a father who's abusive, a cousin who doesn't care for him, and a highschool full of people that wouldn't notice if he disappeared. Matt (Alex Russell), Andrew's cousin, gives him a ride to school almost every day. When the movie begins, Andrew has bought a really nice camera and has vowed that he's going to start recording "everything". We're not sure what has pushed him to start making a video journal of every day of his life, but it provides the viewer with a point of view. We never see a floating lens, a camera that pretends it's not there. "Chronicle" is very interesting because it makes pains to show that there is a camera. It's this kind of filming that stemmed from "The Blair Witch Project" and other such movies, but "Chronicle" is very clever with how it manages to manipulate a camera into every scene so that we don't miss a crucial part of the plot (these little devices include a video blogger and security cameras). What is most shocking is how genuine this all feels. I'm not saying that the movie feels real, because just the opposite is true for me—as the movie continues, it gets more ludicrous—but rather that the style (as it jumped from here to there) never feels anything but coherent.
Trying to get Andrew out of his shell, Matt brings him to a rave, where he calmly sits in the background and films everyone and, naturally, gets picked on by a bully. Going outside to have peace and quiet, he gets approached by one of the most popular kids in the school, Stephen (Michael B. Jordan) who tells him that he needs the camera. Andrew follows Stephen into the forest, where he finds Matt staring into a hole in the ground. This round cavern is making noises and they want to get it on camera. Like any highschool-testosterone filled people, they decide to go spelunking. Under the extreme protest of Andrew, they go down into the cave and they find a big shiny room filled with big shiny rocks that look like they fell off of Superman's spaceship. So after a big earthquake and some blackout on the camera, we see them...presumably the next day...with powers.
Now they have the ability to move objects with their mind: telekinesis....that's cool.
As much as the movie would seem like a superhero flick, it absolutely is and is not. We are seeing "normal" highschool students go through a transitional period their life...whether that it is symbolic or not, I'll leave that up to you.
What is certain is that (like "X-Men" and "2001: A Space Odyssey), those shiny rocks down int he cave act as an evolutionary jump. Andrew, Matt, and Stephen become "more" than anyone else. They have the ability to manipulate matter, to move objects to their whim...that's enough to make everyone a little high or their respective horses (forgive the terrible butchery of an idiom).
For someone like Andrew—isolated, abused, and emotional—this new ability may not be the best thing.
"Chronicle" has fairly good performances, though sometimes everything gets too ridiculous and the acting cast is too immature to pull it off convincingly. Director Josh Trank has a unique way of introducing new camera techniques to keep us motivated in the movie.
By the end of it all (the last minutes of the film are its worst, regrettably), "Chronicle" seems to be asking what defines a person. Is it their talents? their friends? or rather something else entirely that is as elusive as defining the soul?
These are big questions that arise from a fairly innocent appearing movie...but they are questions that need to be asked and addressed. "Chronicle" may not have the answer to them, it may not know how to save a life; but it never tries to be more than itself.
For what it is, for how quasi-unique it is, "Chronicle" is a very entertaining and smart movie.

Score: ★★★

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