Starring: Dane DeHaan, Alex Russell
Watch as several handheld cameras shake, fall, get knocked into walls. Chronicle’s cinematographer wasn’t a person but a wind turbine. Fans of tripping will love director Josh Tranks’ bombastic, sophomoric take on the superhero genre. If you strapped a camcorder to a soccer ball, and requested that David Beckham kick it for an hour and a half, you would get Chronicle – in short, the film is poorly shot, edited, made. Tranks’ movie is a three-headed hydra of disappointment.
In this science fiction thriller, teenagers acquire telekinesis and use it to put on a school talent show, throw unassuming shoppers into aisles of food, throw baseballs at each others heads – Chronicle is a mash up between Jackass and Cloverfield. One of the friends that saturates this extraterrestrial power is a troubled teen, named Andrew (Dane DeHaan), that looks eerily like a cross between Nick Stahl and Leonardo DiCaprio.
At home, Andrew’s father has the personality of a chainsaw, and his mother is dying from cancer. The only inkling of happiness he finds is through his socially adept cousin (Alex Russell) and the charismatic Steve (Michael B. Jordan), two other students, along with Andrew, whose genetic code was rewritten by an unidentified mineral lodged near a night club forest (who builds a night club next to a forest?) Once the three have their powers, they build Lego sets and eat Pringles, things that were previously off-limits to the human body.
The drama begins when Andrew starts to lose control; he uses his powers to steal twenty dollars from a bunch of hooligans near his house to buy medication for his mom, when he could’ve used telekinesis to easily lift it from a pharmacy. Oddly, this found footage movie has every character, even when they open doors or fall from buildings, carry cameras without missing a beat. Falling from the Space Needle? No problem, impending death and self-preservation takes a backseat to getting the perfect shot on a camera that will break once it hits the pavement.
Chornicle’s premise is an engaging one, if the director was up to the task, but it needs a reboot upon arrival. The film isn’t dark enough to explore the problems of teenagers, especially when molting morality, dubious decision making, and widespread dishonesty prevails in most teens during formative stages of adult development – even without superhero powers remodeling their DNA. To make all of the characters sympathetic, even when they are in the wrong, is abridging the possibilities of investigating humanity’s darkness. Andrew channels his powers to fight for his mother, but why does one of these characters have to fight for anything in order to do wrong? Evil can exist without being prompted. Goodness without ulterior motives. This script is black and white, with any gray being erased in pre-production. The perversity of teenagers is muted in the film, the impulsivity, the need for materialism. Instead of all three teens – or at least one – bending the bars of their socially constricted existence, they maintain the quo, even making rules for their powers, while they become content on simply making teddy bears dance in front of children. True, Andrew attacks people, eventually becoming volatile as a Pomeii volcano, but he is pushed to his limit – some people never have the room to get pushed in the first place. Chronicle’s biggest flaw is that it doesn’t examine teenagers at their best, worst, most indifferent. High School students are people in waiting; testing the waters of right and wrong. Teenagers’ bodies and minds are constantly changing, and to give them super powers is a metaphor for that – or at least should be. In Tranks’ movie they aren’t surprised or depressed over their abilities, but instead make meet cute with them, even as their bodies alter from their previous attributes.
Tranks’ picture is innocuous, safe, pedestrian in development – and, to top it off, poorly shot. Not much to rejoice over, other than the fact it isn’t the worst movie at the theaters. A very, very tepid huzzah.