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Chronicle (2012)
Rated PG13

Starring: Dane DeHaan, Alex Russell, and Michael B. Jordan

Rating:
***1/2
out of
*****

Introverted Andrew (Dane DeHaan) lives with his alcoholic father (Michael Kelly) and bed-ridden mother (Bo Petersen) in a bad neighborhood.  He has recently purchased a used video camera and has begun filming everything in his life, including his father's violent outbursts and his daily beatdown at the hands of bullies in the high school hallway.

Through Andrew's camera lens, we see that he gets a ride to school every day from his cousin, Matt (Alex Russell), who is his only friend.  Matt repeatedly tries to get Andrew to socialize with other kids in school, especially girls.  So, when Matt invites Andrew to a party at an abandoned barn, Andrew grudgingly accepts even though Matt tells him to leave his camera at home.

While at the party, Andrew is approached by the super-popular Steve Montgomery (Michael B. Jordan).  Steve wants Andrew to film something that he and Matt have discovered behind the barn.  Andrew hesitantly follows Steve and finds a hole in the ground that leads into a cave. Inside the cave, the three boys find a glowing object that emits a high-pitched noise, changes colors, and begins interfering with the camera.  After a blast of energy emits from the object, the trio are knocked unconscious.  

After waking up and making their way back home, the boys find that they have all gained the ability to move objects with their minds.  Excited at the possibilities of this discovery, they all begin trying out their newfound power and find that it seems to get stronger the more they use it.  Soon, they graduate from stacking Lego blocks to moving cars and levitating themselves through the air.  

But when Andrew accidentally pushes a car off the road -- nearly killing the driver -- it becomes clear that they'll need to keep these powers in check or face the consequences.

Using a variant of the "found footage" genre, much like last year's Apollo 18, every shot in Chronicle is from either a fixed location (such as a security camera) or a portable video camera.  In most found footage movies, the story is comprised of something that no one knew about until the footage was "found."  Here, there's no good reason for the movie to be made up entirely of video camera footage.  Thankfully, director Josh Trank has come up with a gimmick that keeps the film from being a mess of shaky-cam footage for the entire movie. (Andrew has the ability to float his camera around the action.)

While it does ask the audience to believe that three teenage boys can obtain superpowers, Chronicle's script takes the time to let us get to know them and understand why they act the way they do in the movie.  Andrew, who has never had any reason to feel special in his life, has the hardest time adjusting to his newfound talents.  His awkwardness is palpable.  Dane DeHaan does an excellent job portraying this aspect of the character.  I also have to applaud the fact that the characters in Chronicle never attempt to become superheroes or fight crime.  They don't instantly have a use for their abilities; they just want to see what they can do with them and are constantly finding out about them.  

Chronicle may frustrate those looking for a cut-and-dried superhero flick.  It's actually more of a character study than an action film.  And that's exactly what I liked about it.  That's not to say that nothing exciting happens.  The action just takes a backseat to the story in Chronicle.  When the action does take place, the special effects are, for the most part, good.  The effects are fairly CGI-heavy and some scenes look that way.  But for a film that was made for $12 million, I am impressed with its overall look.

Following in the footsteps of "regular guy turns superhero" movies like Kick-Ass, Super, and Special, Chronicle manages to separate itself from the pack by delivering a story that's more anchored in reality than one might expect from a film dealing with super powers such as flying and telekinesis.  Manage your expectations and you should find it an enjoyable ride.

Trivia: Dane DeHaan will be seen next in 2012's Jack and Diane, with Jena Malone.  (Source: The Internet Movie Database)

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