Imagine a handful of ordinary teens who suddenly acquire extraordinary powers - the ability to fly, to move giant objects, to fend off fists and other attacks.
Would they really use such powers to take down bad guys and rescue those in trouble - like Peter Parker?
"Chronicle" says no: Instead, they'd screw around and have fun for a while. And then - if one of them was angry, for example - they might turn their powers on peers and bullies. And things could get ugly fast.
In this film image released by 20th Century Fox, Dane DeHaan is shown in a scene from “Chronicle.”
As you may have guessed, "Chronicle" is not your typical super-power movie; in fact, it isn't like any other movie I can think of, and that alone makes it worth seeing.
Billing itself as a semi-comedy about three high-schoolers who suddenly acquire startling abilities, the film may shock its teen target audience with grim brutality and hard-hitting reflections on power.
In a spooky and convincing sequence, senior Andrew Detmer and two friends stumble upon a massive underground crystal; later they find themselves with the above-mentioned powers, which seem to get stronger every day.
At first, it seems like a dream come true - especially when outcast Detmer becomes a local celebrity with a dazzling display at the school talent show.
But Andrew quickly proves that absolute power corrupts absolutely - and that if you are a loser or you have a rough life, super-powers won't solve your problems.
The three relatively unknown leads are excellent, and their strong work - coupled with idiomatic, slangy teen dialog - lends an aura of cutting-edge realism to the outlandish goings-on.
Further authenticity is provided by dandy visual effects, which are not limited to soaring through clouds or shoving cars across pavement. Late in the film, things really get out of hand in downtown Seattle (buildings imploding, buses flying through the air), and all of these scenes look visually seamless and real.
I should mention that we sometimes don't see much in this section because the movie uses a "found-footage" gimmick where everything has been filmed on video-- through one of two hand-held devices or various security cameras.
This struck me as unnecessary and distracting; I kept stepping back from the absorbing action to ask myself, "Now which camera was filming this?" And as in other found-footage films (like "Blair Witch Project"), I could never quite believe that the characters wouldn't finally fling aside their cameras and run.
I also felt "Chronicle" was too bloody - almost flirting with an R rating, and really deserving one in a bedroom scene which (if I was seeing correctly) is just plain revolting.
Nevertheless, this carefully crafted and gut-wrenching film does for super-hero movies what "Lord of the Flies" did for desert-island tales.
You won't soon forget it.