'Chronicle' defies expectations


It’s always a bad moment when you get to Midnight Movie and realize that not only is there nothing you particularly want to see, but also that none of the available films did particularly well on Rotten Tomatoes. After a democratic vote between The Woman in Black and Chronicle, we went for Chronicle with the justification that it wouldn’t transform the girls in the group (myself included) into basket cases before going to bed that night. Chronicle is about kids who get superpowers. Nothing too nerve-wracking about that, right?
Wrong, actually. Chronicle, with an 84 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes (which is a much better review than it had when we attended, actually), is riveting and the action scenes are edge-of-your-seat harrowing.
Chronicle takes off when three wildly different high school boys—social outcast Andrew, self-labeled philosopher Andrew, and popular class president Steve—stumble upon a mysterious cavern containing something (it is never clear what) that somehow grants the trio supernatural powers. This is a movie out of the “found-footage” tradition, and the title is taken from one of Andrew’s peculiar habits: he feels the need to carry a camera around with him and record everything that happens. And some very interesting things start to happen.
Discovering that their new-found power functions as a “muscle,” the boys begin to develop it, achieving bigger and bigger feats of telekinetic strength including the ability to move cars with their minds and—more excitingly—to fly. But as Spider-Man pointed out, “with great power comes great responsibility,” and as their powers grow Andrew finds his dark side emerging.
Telling you that is by no means spoiling the plot, because honestly the plot is somewhat predictable. Andrew appears in the movie as a ready-made victim: coming from a broken home with an abusive father and an invalid mother, given the cold shoulder and bullied at school. You know pretty early on that Andrew is going to be the one to snap. Watching the descent, though, is utterly fascinating. One can almost feel the gap between this internal, tormented individual and the friends who are doing their best to reach out to him. More than just reacting out of pain, Andrew begins to rationalize his malice, turning from victim into what he calls a “predator.” The actor who portrays him is very talented, able to inspire pathos in one scene with a goofy and insecure smile before turning around to strike fear and horror into the audience with the cold indifference out of which he begins to act.
The character of Andrew, while too predictable a victim, is the strongest of the trio. Steve, the class president, is kind and friendly almost to a fault and struck me as being somewhat flat. Matt, Andrew’s cousin, was considerably less believable as a wannabe beatnik philosopher attempting to work his way into the popular crowd.
The addition of superpowers definitely adds to the tradition of having a cameraman as a character. Andrew, who is the most adept at using his powers, is able to suspend the camera in midair and let it float around the characters as they talk. The later addition of security cameras and iPhone footage bring new eyes and vantage points to the unfolding action with dramatic effect. However, this strength comes with an inherent weakness. As a found-footage film, the movie obviously leaves many holes in its narrative that will go unanswered simply because of the narrow, first-person scope.
Chronicle has its holes, but I do not regret my choice for Midnight Movie, and the more I think about it the more I would recommend it to someone else. Compelling, thrilling, and emotionally engaging, Chronicle brings the questions of responsibility, the temptation of power, and the importance of relationships right to the forefront with little to impede the viewer from focusing on the intense internal dilemma the characters undergo. The superhero tradition has always taken the human condition and amplified it to demonstrate the immense importance of ones actions and choices, and Chronicle—although arguably not about heroes—joins this tradition with strength and innova