Film review: 'Chronicle' shows dark side of having a superpower

February 06, 2012|By BOB GARVER | Special to The Herald-Mail
  • In this film image released by 20th Century Fox, from left, Alex Russell, Michael B. Jordan, and Dane DeHaan are shown in a scene from "Chronicle."
(AP Photo/20th Century Fox, Alan Markfield)

I typically choose my movie for the week by guessing which one will do the most business. Every now and then I get it wrong.

Last year I wrote a review of the miserable "Sanctum" instead of "The Roommate," which did much better. I made a similar mistake this past weekend, but I caught it just in time.

I thought that the star power of Daniel Radcliffe would carry "The Woman in Black" to the No. 1 spot at the weekend box office. I saw the lemon on Friday and spent the better part of the day Saturday wondering how I could stretch "not that scary" into a full-length article.

 While procrastinating, I caught a tidbit on an entertainment website saying that it was actually "Chronicle" that had the biggest audience Friday night. I scrambled to make it to an 11 p.m. showing. My reward was one of the best and most original films I've seen in a good long while.

The film is comprised of found footage, a filming style usually reserved for horror films like "The Blair Witch Project" and "Paranormal Activity." It's a refreshing change of pace to see it used in a sci-fi action movie like this.

In a few weeks we'll get "Project X" a film that applies the found-footage style to raunchy comedy. The style is either going to have a bright future or get old quickly. For now I like it, it gives the film a feeling of unforgiving thoroughness and accuracy.

The main character of the film is Andrew (Dane DeHaan), an awkward teenager who gets bullied both at school and at home. His only friend is his cousin, Matt (Alex Russell) who seems to only stick with him out of family obligation.

Andrew buys a camera to document his life, which is just one more thing that makes everybody think he's a weirdo. But it turns out to be useful in making a connection with popular kid, Steve (Michael B. Jordan).

 Steve has found a mysterious crater in the woods, and wants Matt and Andrew with his camera to explore it with him. The three find themselves in an underground cave where they happen upon an alien edifice. Next thing they know they're somehow out of the cave and they've developed telekinetic superpowers.

The characters are teenagers, so of course they initially use their powers for immature things. They play pranks, wow their friends at the school talent show, and of course, pick up girls.

Andrew makes his camera float, which means that he doesn't always have to be out of the picture while filming. The group also discovers that they can fly and go soaring above the clouds until pesky airplanes interfere. The sequences of them flying for the first time are the most memorable of the film, but the other scenes where they have fun exploiting their powers could use some trimming.

Things turn dark when Andrew realizes that he can use his powers to dominate others. He gets back at people who have bullied him, robs and mugs others, and even commits a murder.

Soon he's a monster, spreading terror throughout metropolitan Seattle including a midair battle with Matt at the tip of the Space Needle. Andrew makes for a very compelling villain, especially because we're able to follow him from his bleak beginnings.

"Chronicle" is nothing less than a highly enjoyable film. It does some things that I've never seen before and now am glad to have experienced. The film is in not yet part of a franchise, but I imagine we'll get at least one sequel where we find out more about the extraterrestrial entity that allows the characters to have powers. It's a bit scary to think that I nearly missed out on "Chronicle" but the fact that it was a pleasant surprise makes it all the more special.

3 1/2 stars out of 5

"Chronicle" is rated PG-13 for intense action and violence, thematic material, some language, sexual content, and teen drinking. Its running time is 83 minutes.

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