Chronicle was one of the most inventive and arduous films I've seen in a long time.
How was it inventive? The found footage effect was done in such a way that the film's perceived videographer was always one of the characters. I watched for the moment when the filmmakers would have to relax their ingenuity and drop the characters chronicling life act. It didn't happen until the last few scenes when a random point-of-view emerged, and the audience was left wondering who was holding the camera.
At the very start of the film, Andrew starts chronicling his life. Everyone inquires about it, and his only response is: "I'm filming stuff now." He films the drunken nights that his father exposes Andrew to and his mother's battle with a terminal illness. He even takes his camera to a local rave. His cousin Matt begs him to get rid of it but when Matt and Steve, your typical most-likely-to-be-president character, find a mysterious smoking hole in the middle of the ground, Steve calls on Andrew to film their sojourn into the deep. A snap, a crackle and a big explosive pop later, the boys are gifted with super-powers through which they move objects with their thoughts.They start off small. A pencil here, a shoe there, but then Steve learns that he can even move himself to fly.
After Steve teaches the other two boys, something strange happens: Andrew gets annoyed with a tailgating driver and pushes him and his truck off the bridge with his mind. After the ordeal gets sorted, Matt and Steve implement rules to protect the world from the boys' powers. Andrew agrees, but the problems he faces at home with his abusive father and dying mother, at school with the bullies who taunt him, and in the world with the people who judge him eclipse his want to do good. Soon, it's one against two, and Chronicle works arudously to keep all the storylines tied together while maintaining the action-filled moments that become a staple in the film.
The film tries and succeeds...
when Andrew's dark mind-state is shown and not told. He never tells anyone that he's dealing with a lot of pressure from the bullies in his home and in school. He never admits that he has no social skills or that girls are usually repulsed by him. Chronicle shows the audience Andrew's struggle. Whether in an attempt to humanize the character who emerges as the villain on a quest to become an unstoppable force or to simply entertain the audience, the build-up to Andrew's dark plight is satisfying.
The film tries and fails....
when Andrew's power grows exponentially in comparison with his friends' and for no known reason. One could guestimate the film implies that Andrew had more strong emotion to fuel his power while the other two boys led a relatively normal existence. The implication doesn't matter in the end, because Andrew's rise to power affects too many areas of the film for its reasons to be left to a guess.
This film also fails a little because of the gaping holes in plot. For instance, Andrew's father finds the camera he's been using to film his and his friends' super-power adventures. This is the moment where it's all supposed to fall apart, the moment where all is lost. Instead, Andrew's father rags on him about his poor choice in friends. I was left thinking, "Did you not just see your son throwing boulders and UFOs with his mind? And all you're concerned about is his social life? Ok then."
Chronicle asks the question: "What if high schoolers had infinite power?"
Chronicle answers: "Stuff is obliterated for no apparent reason." And that's just not good enough. Characters died in this film who should have been able to better protect themselves according to the plot wherein everyone receives the same power at the same time. Andrew rips a high-school aged boy's teeth from his mouth with his mind yet no one goes after the perpetrator. It was almost as if the filmmakers wanted to show us something cool and then they wanted us to forget about it so that they didn't have to go into the details. It just doesn't work that way in story-telling.
At the end of the day, Andrew becomes an unsympathetic character with mental issues that go unexplored and unexplained. It clouds what could have been a clearly good action film.
Maybe you thought something different about Chronicle. I'd love to hear it. Sound off below...
Until the next scene,