“Chronicle,” from first-time director Josh Trank, is a sci-fi film about three high school friends that gain the power to move objects through telekinesis after finding a supernatural glowing rock inside of an isolated hole in the ground. Though the first half of “Chronicle” masquerades as a charming coming-of-age tale about three teens that bond over their supernatural abilities, the film takes a dark and dramatic turn into a merciless and thrilleresque tale of revenge.
While watching the film, you can subconsciously convince yourself to look past some of the high school clichés in the first half of the movie – but whenever the drastic plot change occurs, you realize that the movie is just badly written.
“Chronicle” suffers from an overall lack of character development, especially in the case of its protagonist, Andrew Detmer (Dane DeHaan), with whom we sympathize in the beginning of the movie. Andrew’s mother is dying of cancer, and his father is an alcoholic former firefighter. Throughout most of “Chronicle,” the parents just seem to be “there,” and their presence seems disjointed and stagnant. However, during the third act of the film, the parents’ flaws drive the entire plot.
Although “Chronicle” does get some points for its interesting topic of teenage telekinesis, the film’s writer, Max Landis, manages to butcher this concept through the use of abundant Hollywood clichés, special effects and deus ex machina.
Like “Paranormal Activity” or “Cloverfield,” “Chronicle” is filmed in a found-footage style from Andrew’s perspective, through his video camera that he just so happens to have on him in order to film every important event in his life. Even in action-packed scenes in the film when Andrew is unable to hold the camera, there always seems to be an explanation for why a camera is filming him at that moment. While there is nothing inherently wrong with the mockumentary/found-footage style of filming, it has come to be associated with gimmicky Hollywood marketing in the last few years.
The film’s stronger points, conversely, are its acting, special effects, and music. The three lead actors – Dane DeHaan, Alex Russell and Michael B. Jordan – all did a superb job playing convincing teenagers. All of them, especially DeHaan, have proven themselves worthy as actors and will more than likely appear in more Hollywood blockbusters to come.
The special effects were, to choose a term, pretty badass. With explosions, flying, floating, shattering and architectural destruction, a good chunk of the movie probably required some intricate green screen shots and very precise framing, especially given the degree of camera movement.
Although an orchestral score was absent from the film (which makes sense, due to the nature of the style of filming) there was a wide array of random background music from David Bowie to Crystal Castles. The audience may find it impossible not to bob heads a little when Bowie’s “Ziggy Stardust” comes on.
Sadly, “Chronicle” isn’t the type of thriller or sci-fi movie that is the least bit thought-provoking. The audience probably won’t feel any different leaving the theater. However, it might be a good flick to see with a group of friends, if special effects happen to satisfy your visual appetite.