Refreshing yet limited — that’s how I felt about Chronicle, a sort of coming of age movie about three teenage boys who gain superpowers. Filmed in the style that the Blair Witch Project made famous, so-called found footage is spliced and edited to create a movie that feels a bit like a documentary, an action movie, and a two-hour version of Degrassi Superhero High.
Andrew Detmer (Dane DeHaan), high school student, chronicles (get it?) his life from behind the lens of a video camera. A bit creepy to those who don’t understand him, it doesn’t get Andrew many friends or any points with his alcoholic and abusive father. While Andrew’s mother slowly and painfully dies from cancer, Andrew’s cousin Matt (Alex Russell) tries to be a positive influence on his life. Enter Steve (Michael B. Jordan), ultra popular and looking to become elected as class president. The three explore a strange opening deep in the woods behind a rave where unexplained signals cause Andrew’s camera to go haywire as the three black out.
The three become imbued with the kind of powers that would make comic-reading boys jealous — The power of flight and telekinesis. Though it gives them headaches and nosebleeds at first, practice makes perfect, and their powers begin to really shape up to be game changers. And, as expected, issues come into play bringing conflict into the small band of best friends. Though the found footage style of filmmaking has brought in a lot of money — Paranormal Activity and Cloverfield being two highly successful movies that come to mind — Chronicle suffers from the same limitations other found footage movies have experienced — finding a way of getting that camera there. When Andrew’s not around, Matt’s love interest, a video blogger, puts another perspective on things, but it feels almost contrived. And when Andrew really starts to cause ruckus, it makes one wonder why Matt brings her along in the car when he could simply, and more quickly, fly there. The reason: How else are we going to see what happens? Still, there are scenes that may have lost value if the movie had been shot conventionally, which builds up the reason for found footage filmmaking — there’s a sort of intimacy there, like the scene of the boys playing catch up in the clouds. Seeing their exhilarated faces as they flew through the crowds made me want a bit of that power.