This is a sci-fi movie that is terribly original and should not be missed. But please pay attention to the PG-13 rating, as kids 12 and under may be taken to places they would rather not see.
Do yourself a very big favor and see Chronicle. It is a disturbingly dark film that is graphically intriguing beyond adequate description.
In a nutshell, something goes terribly wrong when three inherently decent teenage boys stumble upon an unknown cosmic force hidden in an underground trench deep in a local forest. While none of the young actors, Dane Dehaan, Alex Russell and Michael B. Jordan, are remotely well known, they more than hold their own as friends who are about to find themselves way out of any imaginable league.
Of the three, Andrew is the youngest and most vulnerable, and he has begun filming all aspects of his otherwise turbulent life. Most of the film itself is seen through his portable camera, and this surprisingly ups the film’s ante considerably. Think of the clever filming in Cloverfield (2008) and you have a sense of what awaits you.
As the other two boys, Matt and Steve, try to give Andrew some meaningful direction, the world for all three turns completely upside down as they wrestle with crazed super powers resulting from their discovery. In that regard, the first third of the film involves a series of very funny moments as the boys test their new talents. They not only are highly amused by their ability to move everything from toys in a store to parked cars, but they gradually become unhinged upon becoming aware of their ability to not only levitate but actually fly.
However, their amusement becomes a nightmare when things go horribly wrong for Andrew following a high school event where he is a social hit for the first time in his life. After he makes a complete fool of himself while trying to hit on a female admirer, the film takes a brutal turn into a very dark corner of Andrew’s disturbed mind. More to the point, Andrew completely loses touch with sanity as he is forced to both deal with an abusive father and confront a pharmacist who denies him needed medication for his very sick mother.
What makes this movie work is the clever reality that it is as funny as it is toxic. As seen in the previews, there is an early moment where Andrew uses his telepathic powers to suddenly force an aggressive truck trailing them on a country road to suddenly veer off a dangerous embankment and crash into an adjoining river. All of the boys are horrified, but while Steve and Matt truly want to accomplish decent things, Andrew gradually loses the ability to care.
It is here that Chronicle is at its best. It mutates from a movie of loveable kids into one where these same boys try to deal with powers that they lack the ability to control. In particular, Andrew wrestles with the concept of what would happen to humans if they were able to approach the everyday world just as lions hunt roving herds of impalas for food. You know that something wicked is coming for obvious reasons.
In many ways, Chronicle was reminiscent of such prior hits as last year’s Super 8 and the legendary Poltergeist (1982). All three deal with bad things happening to nice kids, and it was all but impossible to escape the resulting pathos. I must admit that I took my 13 year old grandson along with me, and despite the disturbing sub-text, he really liked it.
What I found most appealing about Chronicle wasn’t just the wonderful special effects, particularly those on full display during the last third of the film when a colossal battle is unleashed when Andrew eventually views himself as little more than a lion on the hunt. Chronicle is really a movie about the need to be kind to all children, particularly those with obvious weaknesses. What you see in Andrew is a kid who was being taunted on unsuspecting levels, and he makes you wonder what would happen if such children had the power to physically strike back in a very ugly way.