2012-02-03

Chronicle – What Would You Really Do With Super Powers?

by Yo Snyder

What would you do if you got super powers? Would you use them
responsibly? Really? Come on, let’s be honest. You’d probably use them
just for fun, maybe to give you a little edge, but it’s doubtful you’d
immediately run out and help people altruistically; especially if you
were in high school, right? Chronicle deals with this whole
“normal people get super powers” idea probably more thoughtfully and in a
more believable fashion than just about anything out there (yes, even Heroes), which makes for a fascinating film-going experience.

I
should also say that this is probably one of the best uses of the whole
“found footage” genre I’ve come across. The conceit of people’s cameras
capturing everything that happens is used as more than just a gimmick
in Chronicle; it’s a device that helps draw you into this story
and makes it feel that much more personal. When everything eventually
goes wrong, as you know it will, it feels like a punch to the gut
because you feel personally drawn into the story. You feel like you know
these characters because, in a sense, you’ve been observing their
lives. Of course the reason you feel this way is because the
performances of the three leads is so convincing. Dane DeHann draws you
in as the troubled Andrew, and it’s fascinating to slowly see him
unravel. He does an amazing job of portraying a troubled kid trying to
come to terms with his world, and then eventually being overwhelmed when
he discovers the power to do so. Alex Russel is the good kid who
doesn’t really want to get too involved with it all, but wants to keep
things in check when they start to get crazy. Then there’s Michael B.
Jordan, who plays the heart and soul of the group. His natural
exuberance and joy helps keep the creeping darkness at bay…for awhile.
All three are fantastic in their roles, and without solid performances,
this film wouldn’t be nearly as exciting or riveting as it is.

I should also quickly mention that Chronicle
handles one of the key problems of the found footage genre quite well;
specifically the whole nausea inducing “hand-held camera effect”. Not
only do the unique powers of these characters give them the ability to
have a sort of steady-cam effect as they film themselves, but the
inter-splicing of security footage, street cams and cameras in police
cars give the action a believable excuse for multiple angles. True,
there are still those moments where any normal person would have given
up on filming and left the camera behind, but hey, without the camera
rolling, we wouldn’t have a movie, so I can let that slide and there are
fewer of those kinds of moments here than in other films of its ilk.

The best part though is that Chronicle
isn’t just about being a spoof or spectacle, it’s willing to
thoughtfully consider the subject it’s exploring. What would happen if
some kids got super powers? Well, they’d be kids for sure, and we get
some delightful instances of that. However, what would the strain of
trying to keep that power in check, especially in the face of constant
provocation and extenuating circumstances, do to someone? It’s here
where Chronicle is willing to dig deeper than most super hero
fare. It examines the chilling idea of what would happen if someone,
raised to believe that evolution is fact and carried all the
implications of evolution to their logical conclusion, would act on
those logical conclusions. Evolution says we’re here by accident, and
that as humans are at the top of the food chain because there’s no one
bigger. More than that, there’s no moral judgement on a superior
creature eliminating an inferior one; that’s just the circle of life. So
what would happen if a human became more than human, a superior human.
If evolution is true, well then what’s to stop from them…acting like
it? The struggle between evolution and the Bible’s presentation of
creation isn’t just a scientific one, it goes far beyond that. The moral
and philosophical implications of each view, especially on our everyday
lives, has profound consequences. We see examples of that everyday (the
riot in Egypt), and Chronicle shows us an extreme example of
that. It’s definitely something to think about; why are we so eager to
take God out of the equation? Is that really all that enlightened in
light of the inevitable consequences?

Chronicle definitely
brings some freshness to the super hero genre by combining it with the
popular found footage conceit. It’s also fresh in how it’s willing to
explore some of the implications of regular people with super powers on a
very personal and at times tragic level. It all adds up to a
surprisingly engaging film that should be one of the early, surprise
hits of 2012.