Inventive teen movie about three Seattle high schoolers – nerdy, troubled Andrew (Dane DeHaan), popular Steve (Michael B. Jordan), and somewhat undefined Matt (Alex Russell) – who sneak off during a party to investigate a mysterious cave in the woods, discover some giant, alien-looking crystal, and voila! all wind up with spectacular telekinetic powers.
Shot in the "found footage style" pioneered by The Blair Witch Project but on a larger, effects-laden Cloverfield-level budget, Chronicle is great fun for a while, with plenty of scenes that will strike a chord with anyone who's ever fantasized about having super powers. In short, much of Chronicle works because it's about wish fulfillment. Inevitably, it becomes a different movie once one of the characters grows mad with power, although the story progression feels organic enough. (Alas, this is more Unbreakable than Zapped!)
Still, the film has its problems: every "found footage" movie has to justify why there happens to be a camera present for every key point in the story, and Chronicle becomes a little too self-conscious about it, bending over backwards at times to explain it. I get it; if you want to keep up the illusion that all this is really being filmed by the characters themselves, then you can't let it slide. But Chronicle spends so much time addressing the issue that it gets to be distracting. In fact, a female love interest for the Matt character is so poorly defined that I'm convinced she's only there to provide a second camera for certain scenes (she's a "blogger" who films everything, get it?).
Finally, I can't help but feel that this is a movie that will resonate far more with actual teenagers than with adults – even we adults who might have identified with a lonely character like Andrew back in the day. Both director Trank and screenwriter Max Landis (son of Hollywood director John Landis) were 26 when they made the film. Their youthful verve is what gives Chronicle its kick, making it a perfect fit for the obsessively self-documenting YouTube generation, but it results in a shallow, disposable movie in the long run.
Still, the effects are quite good (apparently much of the film was shot and edited in South Africa!) and Dane DeHaan is definitely a talent to keep an eye on. Worth a go, especially if you enjoyed Cloverfield.