Who Doesn’t Want Telekinesis?: ‘Chronicle’ Retrospective

Updated on May 28, 2018
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Mr. Oneil is a professional journalist who graduated from Norfolk State University with a BA in journalism.

Original film poster
Original film poster | Source

This isn't Sabrina the Teenage Witch

At the time this was one of those films that came out of nowhere. The commercials showed footage that looked like it was recorded with a camcorder and had teens using telekinesis. I saw a flying teddy bear, one kid losing his mind, and the kids going underground and finding something. I had no idea what I was looking at until I checked out the movie on DVD. What I saw was a rather unusual film that caught my attention. From 2012 comes the science fiction found footage film Chronicle, directed by Josh Trank.

The film follows three high school teens of different social statuses. After going to a party, they go inside a cavern and find a mysterious object that grants them telekinetic abilities. While they first have fun with their newfound powers, things take a sinister turn when one of the trio uses their abilities for evil.

Most of the film is told through the perspective of Andrew, played by Dane DeHaan. He always carries a camcorder to document his life. He’s universally mistreated by everyone, including his father. At school he’s constantly bullied and at home his father is abusive in every way. The only person who shows him any kind of kindness is his mother, unfortunately she’s slowly dying of cancer, straining Andrew’s relationship with his father even further.

Andrew with his camera
Andrew with his camera | Source

Andrew’s other relative is his cousin Matt, played by Alex Russell. His social life is a bit better than Andrews, so one night, Matt invites Andrew to a party. This go decent until Andrew’s recording gets him into trouble with an attendee. As Andrew goes outside and tends to his camera he meets popular football player Steve, played by Michael B. Jordan in one of his first roles. Steve invite Andrew to come with him to film a big hole that he and Matt found.

The trio go out into the woods and locate a large hole in the ground. Strange sounds come from within. Matt and Steve are over enthusiastic about checking out what lies beyond. They hop in and find themselves in a cavern. After exploring they find themselves in a chamber with a large crystalline object that looks a lot like a Kryptonian ship from the earlier Superman films. While Andrew films, Matt and Steve gleefully mess with it. The crystal glows with a bright blue light, but as the teens continue messing with it, it glows bright red. After a bright burst of light, the scene ends.

Steve examines the crystal
Steve examines the crystal | Source

The very next scene shows the three teens conducting some sort of test by throwing a baseball at each other. It’s a very bizarre scene since it shows the ball being thrown away only for it to curve back into one of the boys’ face. If you hadn’t seen any trailers or commercials and didn’t know what was happening it would most likely confuse you. Eventually Andrew stops the ball from hitting him in the face using telekinesis. Apparently, that big crystal gave all three telekinetic abilities, however overusing them causes their noses to bleed. Telekinesis here works like a muscle, the more they use their powers the stronger they get. They move past baseballs, and playing with Legos, to moving cars.

So now there are three teenage boys granted with fantastic abilities. What’s a teenage boy with telekinesis going to do? They play pranks! The three partake in shenanigans by causing mischief on several people. They move a lady’s car to confuse her, move a shopper’s shopping cart to make it appear possessed, scare a little girl with a flying teddy bear, and toss another teen into a stand after a failed attempt to pull bubble gum out of his mouth.

The trio learn more about their abilities
The trio learn more about their abilities | Source

There’s an old saying, “it’s all fun and games until someone gets hurt.” After being hassled by a truck Andrew uses his power to push the truck off the road and into a stream. Steve and Matt eventually rescue the driver and Matt sets up the ground rules of using their powers, specifically forbidding them from harming others.

One day Steve invites Matt and Andrew out to a construction site, where he reveals that he learned how to fly. After teaching the cousins how to fly like in Dragon Ball Z, they have fun tossing a football in the clouds. The fun ends when they are almost hit by an airplane.

Andrew and Steve bond, with Steve helping Andrew socially. He convinces Andrew to partake in a talent show. Andrew uses his powers and pretends to do a magic act. Instantly he becomes famous around school. During the night he’s invited to a party, along with Matt and Steve. Andrew gets invited to a make-out session with a girl he knows. Andrew’s newfound fame and chance to be with a girl all go out the window when he accidentally throws up on her.

Andrew regresses back to his awkwardness. However, he does get revenge on an earlier bully buy ripping his teeth out. At one point, Andrew fights back against his father by holding him against a wall. Andrew’s intentions become darker, from ripping a helpless spider apart to establishing himself as an apex predator. Matt and Steve soon catch on to Andrew’s antagonistic behavior. One night during a storm Steve flies into the sky and meets Andrew. Steve attempts to reason with Andrew but it doesn’t go well. While the view is obscured it’s implied that Andrew used his power to throw a lightning bolt at Steve, killing him.

After Steve’s funeral Matt becomes suspicious as to how he died. He confronts Andrew who says that he didn’t do it. Andrew’s mother’s condition gets worse, but the medical bills are draining their money. Andrew resorts to robbing local street hooligans and a convenient store, however he becomes hospitalized by an explosion during the heist.

Andrew contemplates on what to do
Andrew contemplates on what to do | Source

In the recovery room, Andrew’s father comes in and reveals that Andrew’s mother passed away, but his father blames him for it. Andrew, who’s had enough of his father, wakes up and tries to kill him. At another party Matt senses what’s happening and goes to see Andrew which leads to the film’s climax.

Chronicle follows the same veins as the 1970s horror film Carrie and the 1980s anime film Akira. All three films have the same premise of a teenager gets bullied, they gain telekinetic abilities, and eventually uses their abilities to get back at their tormentors. This is the first to feature the theme from a found footage perspective. It’s rather uniquely shot with a single cam. Later in the film they attempt to show other angles by showing footage from cellphones and security cameras. It makes sense, but it felt forced.

Each character is unique and fit in with each other. Andrew is the socially awkward one, Steve is the popular jock, and Matt sits in the middle. Most of the film follows Andrew and documents his fall into darkness. We follow his struggles, before and after he gets his abilities. Being reclusive makes him a target for school bullies. Coming home doesn’t help as his father is just as abusive, if not more so. After he becomes essentially a super-villain it’s still easy to sympathize with him. In all Andrew isn’t evil, he just had one bad day too many.

From left to right: Andrew, Steve, Matt
From left to right: Andrew, Steve, Matt | Source

Despite being popular in school, Steve often came off as a voice of reason. He was the jokester of the group, enjoyed playing pranks, and was the first to fly. It did seem unusual that Steve would just abandon his circle of friends for Andrew and Matt. Outside of his mother, Andrew bonded with Steve the most. While they were polar opposites they just seemed to have the greatest chemistry on screen. Steve’s last act was reaching out to Andrew, which ends badly. Andrew does accept responsibility for Steve and secretly mourns him.

Matt was the blandest one of the group. It’s not that he was a bad character, he had his moments. He just didn’t have as much development as the others. But he is the only one of the three shown to have an actual love interest. He’s not really close to his cousin Andrew due to Andrew being withdrawn. He does invite Andrew to a party that would ultimately change their lives. Matt takes the longest to develop his abilities and sets the rules of not harming others. While the film focuses on Andrew, in the end Matt becomes the hero. Also, while Matt seemed rather cold towards Andrew at times, it’s later shown that he does care for Andrew.

Being a found footage film, the only music you hear is played on car radios or stereos at parties. The theme in the end credits is the high energy song Bright Flash by the band M83, which goes perfectly with the film’s science fiction theme.

Overall, I highly recommend Chronicle. The central character’s attention-grabbing story has a rather heartbreaking conclusion. The concept of having telekinetic abilities as a teen is a guilty pleasure for most. Some of the pacing can be slow and the camera cutting to new places makes things go by fast, which sound like a balance, but it can make the film feel lopsided. As a found footage film, the acting’s more realistic than a typical film, but it can get a little ridiculous near the end with the multiple camera footage cut into one story. There are several unanswered questions, specifically concerning the crystalline object that gave the teens their abilities. The film does end on an open note as there were talks of a sequel, but as of now there hasn’t been any more discussion of it. Check out Chronicle is you want a different take on the superhero genre.

Original film trailer

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    © 2018 Staff Oneil


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