“Chronicle” gets the occasional comparison to “Akira”, mostly because of the ending, and that’s a serious mistake. If anything, “Chronicle” is “Carrie” as a superhero comic instead of a horror novel.
But no matter what you want to compare it to, one thing’s undeniable: it’s a great superhero origin story. In fact, it’s a little surprising that a movie like “Chronicle” got made. It’s well-balanced between drama and special effects, and engaging in ways a lot of movies based on actual comics fall flat.
Surprisingly, the movie doesn’t focus on semi-cool kid (and somewhat pretentious tool) Matt, but Andrew, the guy the trailers have made clear is the villain. Here’s the thing: Andrew doesn’t ultimately lose it and destroy most of downtown Seattle because he’s inherently evil. He loses it because he’s humiliated, scared, abused and finally, he just can’t take it. Within the first five minutes, we learn Andrew has no friends, is constantly abused in school, has a dying mother, and an emotionally and physically abusive monster of a father. In its own way, “Chronicle” is a tragedy about a young man who loses his way and can’t find it back.
One thing that’s easy to miss, especially when the effects start going full speed, is that this is the most honest movie about teenagers in years. They drink, they swear, they flip each other off, they do stupid stunts to make each other laugh, they talk about sex incessantly…and that grounded feeling runs throughout the script. Andrew’s path to villainhood isn’t some over-the-top moment of humiliation in front of the entire school, but something that’s very real and arguably even more painful and humiliating.
It also uses the found footage conceit pretty well: Andrew uses a camera to shield himself from the world, and once he gets the power to keep it constantly filming, it becomes second nature to him.
Of course, this isn’t a serious indie drama: it’s a superhero movie, and it actually balances that end of the equation quite well. Whether these guys are whipping through the clouds, messing with people in stores, or screwing around, the effects are pretty convincing and, more to the point, exactly what most of us with telekinesis would have done in high school. It also builds slowly to the climax, a knock-down, drag out fight across Seattle that works. By the time Andrew snaps, you’re not just looking for some stuff to blow up, you’re kind of hoping Matt can get through to him.
There are some flaws here, although the movie manages to minimize them: Matt’s girlfriend being a vlogger is a little cutesy and convenient, and you wonder why the authorities don’t start noticing what’s going on sooner. In fact there are hints that the authorities know something’s up. Finally, the very end is blatantly tacked on by the studio, and it manages to both drag and include a clumsy sequel hook. If anybody at Fox is paying attention, “Chronicles of Matt” is not going to be as interesting.
But, still, “Chronicle” is worth your ten bucks. It’s well-done, engaging, and even manages to generate a sense of wonder at having superpowers. Who knew the race for “best superhero movie” would start this early?