Spiderman’s beloved Uncle Ben once said With great power comes great responsibility. Sure Voltaire said it first, but the three teens at the center of Chronicle are more likely to be reading philosophy penned by Stan Lee than some old French guy.
Our heroes are three high school archetypes: Popular suave Steve (Michael B. Jordan: Red Tails), Stoner Matt (Alex Russell: Almost Kings) and bullied dweeb Andrew (Dane DeHaan: True Blood). Weird and quiet, Andrew has started filming everything that happens to him in an effort to stave off the abuse he suffers at the hands of bullies and his alcoholic father.
That’s good news for us, because Andrew’s camera is the only way we get to see what happens. Matt kind-heartedly drags Andrew to a party in the woods, hoping to get his weird cousin to lighten up. There, the boys meet up with Steve and discover a mysterious object. Each boy touches the object, and the camera fritzes out.
Drat. Movie over.
Steve and Matt pool their money to buy Andrew a new camera to film their newly developed telekinesis. They’ve read enough comics to know this is the stuff of superheroes, but they’re in high school, so why not have some fun?
That’s what they do: Leaf blowers suddenly whoosh up girls’ skirts. Teddy bears fly off toy store shelves to chase little girls. Cars move without drivers. It’s all great fun until Andrew, drunk on his new power, crashes cars.
Steve and Matt decide that they need rules. Andrew agrees only to keep his friends happy. But the pressures of his home life coupled with the abuses he suffers in school push him to focus his powers on destruction.
When Andrew determines that being an evil overlord is a better social plan than hoping people will learn to like him, it’s up to Steve and Matt to stop him.
The found-footage genre has been getting a bit rote of late, but director Josh Trank (The Kill Point) makes Chronicle a fresh and entertaining take on this familiar conceit.
This dark spin on superhero origins works because of the three boys at its center. As Steve, Jordon does the nearly impossible: He makes the most popular kid in school a genuine nice guy. Russell is a well-intentioned stoner who can’t quite cope with his weird cousin or his amazing powers. DeHaan’s troubled kid with too many chips on his shoulder is the dramatic standout. His rage is palpable.
Their glee at discovering their super powers is exactly right for high schoolers. They don’t try to stop crime like Peter Parker. They want to stop a baseball chucked at their head. They want to try out telekinesis in bed with their girlfriends. They want to see if they can fly.
Chronicle is a great take on the boys-will-be-boys caper.