It seems as if Hollywood recycles the same ideas over and over again, and the science fiction genre is one of the worst offenders. There have been countless movies where someone or a group of people discover some strange force, object, etc. and suddenly develop mysterious powers they could only dream of. It’s somewhat of a Mad Libs, cookie-cutter style to chosen from predetermined factors and thrown together and hope for the best. Although “Chronicle” takes this route, it is still entertaining for the most part.
Seattle teen Andrew Detmer (Dane DeHaan, TV’s “True Blood”) stars as a social recluse with a dying mother, an abusive father and constant bullying in school to top it all off. When his cousin Matt Garetty (Alex Russell, “Wasted on the Young”) and their best friend Steve Montgomery (Michael B. Jordan, TV’s “Friday Night Lights”) get him to attend a rave in the middle of nowhere, things seem to be looking up. When Andrew begins to loosen up, however, his habit of filming every second of his life with a sizeable, expensive camera does more harm than good and gets kicked out. The trio then goes off exploring a mysterious hole in the ground and shortly thereafter the camera goes black.
Fast forward a few weeks and the teens are developing their telekinetic powers as a result of the hole incident. Making things fly and inflicting pain on themselves without noticeable harm quickly escalates to flying high in the sky and crushing cars as if they were nothing. While Matt and Steve only use their newfound powers for fun, Andrew’s environment and accelerated ability are a volatile combination that is waiting to go off. He considers himself an “apex predator” and purposely inflicts harm on people and property around him.
The overarching plot here isn’t anything audiences haven’t seen before. An over-stressed, socially awkward teen using his powers for revenge is hardly original. DeHaan is okay on his own, however, it’s his interactions with Matt and Steve that make it something more than that. As the trio moves on from using their powers for fun to trying to stop Andrew from wrecking havoc, the little quirks between the three really adds to the drama. For the most part the plot is easily understood, but several points remain unexplained at the end of the film, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
DeHaan is the film’s antagonist, but given the destruction he causes, his circumstances make it a bit more understandable. His transformation from a shy teen with some supernatural ability to a menacing force is well acted and believable. Russell doesn’t seem the right fit for the “good” cousin though, and it comes off a bit fake. Jordan is a nice middle ground to counterbalance the two. Michael Kelly (“The Adjustment Bureau”) is also notable for his role as Andrew’s abusive father.
The film’s trump card lies in its effects. While things start out simple enough when the boys are developing their powers, flying through Seattle, crushing cars and flinging people around; these soon become second nature.
Overall, “Chronicle” is neither the must see sci-fi film of 2012, nor the worst. It falls somewhere in the middle. The relatively unknown actors do a good job for their purposes. The effects are solid and the plot is somewhat intriguing if not a mix of what’s already been done. Viewers looking for a decent supernatural thriller can’t go wrong with “Chronicle.”