Penned by Max Landis and directed by Josh Trank, while "reinvention" would be too strong a word, "Chronicle" does a nice job of twisting the standard genre tropes into a pleasantly refreshing, highly entertaining story that features no costumes, no villains, no score, and even at less than 90 minutes, a fair amount of substance. If anything, the tiny-budgeted film (though not that poor considering the filmmakers licensed a David Bowie song) is a sizzle reel for Josh Trank who shows he can do on a fraction of the budget what many directors in Hollywood can't do with hundreds of millions. That it turns out to be a pretty whipsmart little movie in addition, isn't too bad at all.
But resentment and anger are never too far behind for Andrew, and though he sees his social stock rise with the mild abuse of his powers, the fall is quicker and harsher than he would've expected. Weighing on him further are the troubles at home, with his mother crying out in pain, and his no-good father unable to afford the medication to help her. It's not the powers that are a burden in this film, it's Andrew's life itself and that his abilities still can't lift him out of his personal woes causes a wound to grow and fester within. And without spoiling too much, as we said, there is no "villain" of the movie, but what instead emerges is a nice variation on what is essentially the push and pull found in Magneto and Charles Xavier. While Matt tries to establish a set of rules for the three to follow to ensure primarily that they don't hurt anyone, Andrew is less convinced, because after all, in his own life in which he has been routinely humiliated and abused, rules have done little to protect him.
But, it hardly matters. What keeps "Chronicle" compelling is not the quickly wearing novelty of verité-style narrative, but a story in which the stakes aren't on some far-fetched villain who has a plan to destroy the world, but are based on character-driven issues. It's not about a hero who is running out of time to save humanity, but a human who is running out of options. And while we're making it sound deeper than it is (and the movie cheekily tosses around some philosophical mumbo jumbo), it's just the right amount detail to make these characters worth caring about, and their adventure meaningfully engaging.
Rounded off by a dazzling and pretty uncomprising finale, and helmed with some real verve and energy by Trank, "Chronicle" posits that with great power comes great responsibility. And if you're a teenager, that message is doubly true. [B]