Prediction: I would have enjoyed high school more if I'd had superpowers.
That's almost a trick prediction. I would've enjoyed high school more if I'd spent it locked in a trunk. Or repeatedly attending Advanced Ed-Beating.
Nah, I'm exaggerating. The non-school parts of high school were all right. On the continuum of kids who hate high school, my anger wouldn't crack the 40th percentile, meaning I only wanted to unleash my giant mechanical ants on a weekly basis.
Things would have been different if I'd had, say, X-ray vision. Who needs a girlfriend when you can just use your powers to see through the bathroom walls and ensure no one is in there and it is thus safe to use without embarrassment? What? That's how I would have used it. I wouldn't be surprised if the main character of the found-footage semi-superhero flick Chronicle would do the same.
At school, Dane DeHaan is alternately bullied and ignored. His closest thing to a friend is cousin Alex Russell. Home is even worse. While DeHaan's ailing mom slowly dies in bed, his drunk dad regularly beats him.
Things change when DeHaan, Russell, and popular jock Michael B. Jordan find strange crystals down a pit in the woods. They soon discover they've been granted telekinetic powers. Powers that get stronger every time they use them.
In other words, Chronicle is about teenagers getting superpowers. Is there a scarier concept in the world? Only teens being asked to participate in Death Race 2000, probably. On the other hand, what trouble are these 17-year-old Supermen really going to cause? Flying away from Denny's without paying? Eye-lasering a giant wang into the football field grass? Frankly, I'd trust superpowers to a high schooler much more readily than to an adult. The kid's a lot less likely to hole up in a volcano and impose a flat tax on us all.
Smartly, Chronicle treats its teens as teens. On discovering they can now move things with their minds, their big plans are to immediately start pranking everyone, be it terrorizing children with dancing stuffed animals, defeating villainous skirts with righteous wind gusts or vaulting the picked-on DeHaan to instant popularity through the world's only truly democratic institution: the high school talent show.
Obviously computer generated though they may be, it turns out watching these tricks and goofs is a ton of fun, and not only for the vicarious thrill of using eerie powers to make little children cry. First-time director Josh Trank and his co-writer Max Landis take two stereotypes (the beloved popular kid and the awkward geek) and turn them into actual people. Sorcery! Brought together by abilities they don't understand, the growing friendship between DeHaan and Jordan feels incredibly real, proving all it takes to unite nerds and jocks is literal superpowers.
A lot of this chemistry — I was about to qualify it with "bromantic" until my left hand picked up the pistol I keep next to my coffee and started waving it in my face — stems from the performances. I think DeHaan will get a lot of credit for playing an honest-to-god loser. He isn't the male version of the geeky girl with the glasses and the pinned-up hair. He doesn't peel off his pro-Linux T-shirt to reveal werewolf abs and that his own sweat has styled his hair. He's a kid who's genuinely awkward and defensive and insecure. So you know what? he probably deserves all that hitting.
I think I liked Jordan's performance even more, though. The deck is stacked to get us to sympathize with DeHaan. Yet, Jordan's turn as a genuinely good dude forced me to overcome my resentment towards all those who still have a future to look forward to. Now that's talent.
So Chronicle is funny, it's fun, and its characters are extremely engaging. Will complaining about the ending make it sound like a disappointment? Because the climax/payoff was kind of generic. Possibly because we're suddenly distanced from DeHaan. Possibly because, much like Clay Bennett, Chronicle is more concerned with blowing up Seattle than in rewarding our emotional investment. I guess I'll just imagine the better ending this movie deserved.