What would you do during the most awkward time in your life if you were given unlimited power? This is the ultimate question in Josh Trank’s debut movie, Chronicle. Three high school boys make an incredible discovery in a crater during a party that gives them superhuman abilities. What they do with these powers is heavily influenced by the lives that they led before the incident.
The school outcast and general dweeb about town is Andrew (Dane DeHaan). He is the social pariah standard. With one sickly parent and another who is distant at best and physically abusive at worst, Andrew decides to “film everything.” This gives us an immediate reason for the use of the found footage style that takes place in the movie (ex: Cloverfield or The Blair Witch Project). The only friend that Andrew has is his cousin Matt (Alex Russell), who gives him rides to school but is clearly not in Andrew’s social circles, if he belonged to any. When Andrew informs Matt that he will be filming everything from now on we get a glimpse at the notion of barriers, both social and physical that Andrew sets up. Matt is not a fan of the initial barrier that is created with the use of the camera but quickly acquiesces to the idea of it and we move forward. As much as Andrew is the social pariah high school cliché, Matt is the trying to find myself guy. This is the average high school kid and he is here for us to relate to, awkward at times but sometimes has moments of cool. Matt, during a moment of cool takes pity on Andrew and drags him to a party to truly experience high school life. They are seniors and as an outcast Andrew doesn’t have much but the ridicule of his father to contend with. The two boys link up with a new partner in crime named Steve (Michael B. Jordan), the popular kid stereotype. Soon to be class president, classic overachiever, and star athlete Steve is everything that Andrew isn’t. This makes for a great dynamic when Andrew is more timid during times of stress throughout the movie. Once together, the three make a discovery that changes them forever.
When the boys start to realize what they can do, they do what any red-blooded teenage boy would do…they have fun. Trank’s ability to convey the situations that these kids find themselves in was perfect. I found myself thinking, yeah I would do that. The hijinks that ensue are some of the movie’s best moments. From extreme baseball to flying, Andrew and his crew become a family. He now has equals who understand him and want to be around him. He has never had this. As their powers increase the boys try to develop rules so that things never get out of hand. When a tragic eruption happens in Andrew’s life the boys are forced to pull together like a family or be fractured just the same. The existence of their powers never allows them to run away from life.
For Josh Trank’s directorial debut he does well, honestly better than I expected. Trank along with Max Landis wrote the original story and the care of a writer/director can be seen throughout. While Chronicle is not the next Batman or X-Men: First Class it is a nice entry into the superhero-esque genre. The visual effects do leave something to be desired. The wireworks on the flight scenes were just low quality. A budget of $15 million will only get you so far. During scenes on ground level you could see some cheap yet effective cgi. The dialogue was definitely no Shakespeare, but were you expecting it to be? The movie knows what it is and never played it any different. A fun Friday night date movie, you won’t be disappointed. I look forward to seeing what Trank can do with a larger budget. The story telling is well paced and never gets bog down with trying to be existential with questions of godliness or higher purpose thinking. With more money and movie time this could have been flushed out into a big summer movie blockbuster. However, the low budget keeps it intimate and seemingly meaningful. You cared what happen to these boys on a certain level. When watching them you can’t help but say, “how would I have handled this power!”