The three protagonists in Chronicle are following their own paths through their senior year in high school until they discover an alien artifact in an underground cavern. Andrew (Dane DeHaan) is a shy, socially inept video geek who prefers viewing life through the distance afforded by a viewfinder. He is bullied at school and at home, where his mother (Bo Petersen) is wasting away on her deathbed and his abusive father (Michael Kelly) is never far from a bottle. Andrew’s only friend is his cousin, Matt (Alex Russell), but there’s a distance between them. Matt is a member of the popular crowd and he finds Andrew to be hostile and unpredictable. Then there’s Matt’s friend, Steve (Michael B. Jordan), who is the school’s Golden Boy – accomplished both in and out of the classroom, liked by all, and seemingly destined for greatness.
The underground encounter imbues Andrew, Matt, and Steve with telekinetic powers. Andrew’s seem to be the strongest, but that may be because he focuses the hardest. Initially useful minor gags and tricks, their abilities grow stronger with use. Soon, they can levitate themselves and soar into the sky. And they can hurt others. They draft a set of three rules intended to keep them from harming people, but Andrew begins to think of things in evolutionary terms. Survival of the fittest. After all, do people feel remorse when they kill a bug?
Chronicle is unusual, and perhaps unique, in the way it treats the so-called origin story. These are regular kids with regular problems in a regular school. There is no Uncle Ben. No Alfred. No Professor X. Their challenge is not to grow into their powers fast enough to be able to fend off a challenge to the world. Instead, it’s to find a way to cope with the ways in which they are different from their friends and schoolmates and to recognize that these powers cannot change their fundamental identities.
The cast is comprised of unfamiliar faces, which enhances the pseudo-reality of the milieu. The principals – Dane DeHaan, Alex Russell, and Michael B. Jordan – are professional actors but they are not “known” stars and that allows them to be accepted with ease into these roles.
Another nice thing about Chronicle is that it tells the whole story. There’s nothing about the ending that would preclude a sequel but there’s nothing that requires one, either. The tale has been told. There’s a beginning, a middle, and an end. There’s comedy and tragedy, levity and sadness. In fact, this is in many ways less a superhero movie than it is a coming-of-age story.
Chronicle is the kind of movie that makes one excited about the future prospects of the man at the helm.
Cast: Dane DeHaan, Alex Russell, Michael B. Jordan, Michael Kelly.
Director: Josh Trank.
Screenwriters: Max Landis, Josh Trank.
Producers: John Davis, Adam Schroeder.
A 20th Century Fox. Running time: 83 minutes. Intense action and violence, thematic material, language, sexual content, teen drinking.