As comic book fans learned from the pages of Spider-Man, with great power comes great responsibility. But what happens when great power lands in the hands of three otherwise ordinary teenagers? This is what happens in Chronicle, far less of a superhero movie than a cautionary tale.

Andrew Detmer (Dane DeHaan) is a high school senior in Seattle who's decided to film everything in his life -- and it becomes clear very quickly that his life sucks. Painfully shy, at school he's either treated like a freak or as a target by bullies. At home, he takes care of his terminally ill mother (Bo Petersen) while enduring abuse from his alcoholic father (Michael Kelly). The closest thing to a friend Andrew has is his cousin Matt (Alex Russell), a nice-if-pretentious high school senior.

After being dragged to a rave, Andrew and Matt are recruited by Steve Montgomery (Michael B. Jordan) -- the popular shoo-in for senior president -- to look into a strange passage in the ground. The three teens go exploring, find a strange glowing blue rock formation -- and then things get weird.

Whatever was in the cavern has given the three superhuman powers. At first they can move things with their mind; they soon expand those abilities to flying and protection from damage. They use the powers for pranks, for showing off, and for fun. But when Andrew accidentally puts someone in the hospital, they start freaking out. Matt tries to make rules for their powers -- no using them on living things, no using them when angry, no using them in public -- but those rules don't last long. And with Andrew clearly more powerful than the other two, things are looking bad...

Chronicle is an interesting take on what would happen if somehow people in the real world suddenly had fantastic abilities -- and for the first half of the movie, that's exactly what we get. The movie deserves credit for not turning its protagonists into either ultra-noble heroes or selfish, despicable villains; instead, we see that life continues almost as normal for them -- until the harshness of Andrew's world leads to a dire pushback from an angry teen with amazing powers.

The latter part of Chronicle feels more familiar as we have an extended sequence of super-powered fighting and mayhem, but the movie remains entertaining. The whole thing is shown from the perspective of video cameras (at first Andrew's camera, later everything from security cameras to cell phones), but this often-used technique works well here as we're shown everything from the teens' point of view. The actors are all solid in their roles, and there are a few surprises along the way. Chronicle doesn't redefine the superhero movie, but it is a good take on the genre.

Overall grade: B

Reviewed by James Lynch

No comments: