Movie Review: Chronicle

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Chronicle is a dark, different take on the super hero movie genre. It’s a far cry from The Avengers and The Dark Knight series, but features super powered teenagers “in a real world setting.” The majority of the film focuses on the three main characters (Andrew, Steve and Matt) exploring what they can do with their powers. As you can imagine, when 3 teenage boys get telepathy, a whole bunch of pranks, sex and fun is to be had. Of the 3 main characters, Steve is easily the most charismatic and is perfectly portrayed by Michael B. Jordan. A good majority of the humor in Chronicle originates from Jordan’s performance and easily grabs the average viewers attention. It’s easy to see why Jordan was cast for the role of Steve, whose meant to be the popular class president candidate at school as his personality is like a magnet to those around him.

Dane DeHaan likewise, does a good effort at offsetting Jordan’s optimistic and likeable character by playing a dark, troubled teenager. The majority of the film is seen through the shaky cam lens of DeHaan’s character, Andrew. There’s obvious signs that Andrew is going to turn much more evil later in the movie that it almost becomes cliché when it finally happens, but DeHaan also sells a very understandable reason for his character. Andrew is ostracized both at school and at home by a abusive father. While you want Andrew to succeed, DeHaan sells the fact that Andrew really has too much working against him to ever see the light, so when Andrew finally does snap, it’s less shocking and more expected.

Finally, rounding out the trio is Alex Russell’s character, Matt. Russell was the most frustrating performance in the movie as you never really understood where Matt stood. Was Matt an egotistical, popularity hungry teen? Was he a good student or a slacker? Did Matt care about family (Andrew) or just look out for number 1? You get mixed messages throughout the movie that leaves you frustrated and unable to relate to his character or get emotionally invested, and it’s a problem. Matt never becomes a very easy character to read so that when he ends up trying to be the light of reason towards the end of the movie, it feels somewhat tacked on, rushed and unconvincing. Without giving too much away, we know that Matt and Andrew are cousins; however, we also know that Andrew’s mom is very sick and is dying, but Matt never seems to discuss this with Andrew or show any sign of concern (or knowledge) of what’s going on. You would think this would actually come up at some point in the movie, but it’s totally ignored. Blame it on the writers or Russell’s acting, but it leaves a plot hole that’s hard to get around.

The shaky cam film style isn’t necessarily a bad choice to base Chronicle around as it attempts to remind the audience that this isn’t meant to be a heroic super hero movie, but it also feels like it removes the audience from the action at times. I personally would have preferred to go without it, but it’s not the worst job I’ve seen of it. One area of the film I did appreciate was the fact that there was very little time around the origin of the protagonists power, and more focus on exploring the use and training. Watching Jordan, Russell and DeHaan fly for the first time or watching them do Jackass style self damage throwing baseballs at each other is entertaining and it really sells the performance of your average teenage guys who just discovered they have amazing powers. There’s a talent show performance in the middle of the movie that really sells the characters as just enjoying being teenagers with powers, using them to have fun, become popular and of course, get the girls.

One of Chronicle‘s biggest problems though is the balancing of humor and fun with the depressing dark story of Andrew. While Andrew’s tortured home and social life sets him up for an eventual fall into darkness, the constant ping-ponging of enjoyment and abuse ultimately feels like an emotional mess throughout the movie. I understand the director wanted to remind us that Andrew can’t escape the torture of his home life no matter how much fun he has outside of it, but it felt all too often that the movie didn’t know what emotional direction it wanted to go in.

Chronicle is worth viewing; however, and I would genuinely like the idea of seeing a sequel (with an entirely brand new cast) if they can fix the issues above and (hopefully) get rid of the shaky cam movie style. Chronicle gets a C+ from GeekCitadel. Rent it for sure, but I can’t recommend a purchase.