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Movie Review: Chronicle

February 20, 2012

Chronicle is the story of three high school boys who find a glowing asteroid in the woods which gives them telekinetic powers, but this is only the plot of the movie. There is a great deal of subtext to the way the story is told and the details of the life of the main character.

Chronicle is told through the lens of a camera much in the same way as The Blair Witch Project and Cloverfield. Chronicle succeeds where the others have failed by showing the life behind the camera. Andrew doesn’t set out to record anything in particular, just his life. The movie doesn’t start off with a grand camping adventure or some fancy party. It’s just took Andrew’s life and his life is hard.

Andrew is your typical high school outcast. His father is an abusive alcoholic and his mother has some condition which leaves her mostly bedridden. Most of his classmates either don’t know his name or pick on him. His only friend is his cousin Matt and even Matt seems uncomfortable in the role as Andrew’s friend. The only reason that the popular Steve becomes Andrew’s friend is because they share the secret of their powers.

Though the story tells of the development of superpowers for three young men, it is still at its core the story of great power being put in the hands of the immature. Most of the audience seemed to relate to the pranks that the young men pulled with their powers. This is for the first time the real story of what modern young people would do if suddenly granted superpowers. With great power comes great opportunity for lulz. And for Andrew, the chance to fix the parts of his life which were imperfect.

Cameras are used in the movie both as the eye of the audience and as a shield for Andrew. At one point early in the movie, one of the other characters asks Andrew if he feels like the camera puts a wall between him and everyone else. Andrew replies that maybe he wants a wall between him and others. As the story progresses and Andrew’s powers develop, he begins to use his power to float the camera away from him. The audience both sees more of Andrew and get a visual measure of how far Andrew has come out of his shell.

There is also a message to be found near the end in how pervasive cameras are in our lives. In the final battle, the view switches from cameras in buildings, in phones, and in police cruisers. For part of the battle, Andrew pulls the phones and cameras from the viewers in a building. He floats them around himself, literally surrounding himself in cameras. The move may only have been an attempt by the director to get a better view of the conversation between Andrew and his cousin, but it does make for an interesting metaphor.

Chronicle is not an action packed movie.  It starts off slow, gradually building up to the explosions and tossed cars.  There are quite a few plot threads left unaddressed, such as the origins of the object which gave the main characters their powers.  And those looking for a neat ending wrapped in a bow may find themselves a bit disappointed.  It is still a better superhero origin story than many, and likely one which the audience will relate to more deeply.  It’s not a magic ring which makes them a member of an intergalactic space force, it’s not a playboy alcoholic using fancy computers to build a suit, it’s not an alien from outer space.  It’s just three kids, who stumbled into something they couldn’t understand and weren’t quite mature enough to handle.  Something I think that most of us can relate to, even if it didn’t involve superpowers.

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