Chronicle: Sci-fi with a brain
WE KNOW that absolute power corrupts absolutely.
But could it also corrupt Matt, Drew and Steve?
This is the question posed by "Chronicle," a smarter-than-average sci-fi movie about three high school boys whose contact with a mysterious object gives them telekinetic powers.
At first, power is not much of a priority. The savvy script by Max (son of John) Landis understands the male teen brain - we see them goofing around, making videos, concocting pranks, thrill-seeking, and of course, using their abilities to get girls. It's funny and it's shrewd - the way the boys form an insular group, a mini-secret society, rings true, even in this fame-seeking age.
As their powers grow, so does the potential for danger. Matt (Alex Russell) decides "rules" are needed, or, put another way, an ethical framework to govern how their powers should be deployed.
This comes naturally to Matt, who quotes Arthur Schopenhauer and Plato and, in his spare time, talks about the moral dimensions of free will (also a strategy to get girls, and as we see, not a good one). Easygoing Steve (Michael B. Jordan) is happy to apply his new skills in the bedroom.
The wild card is Drew (Dane DeHaan), a troubled misfit whose horrific home life feeds his social isolation.
What happens when a telekinetic weirdo starts acting out? A special effects bonanza, that's what. As tensions build and boil over, "Chronicle" morphs into a full-on action spectacle. This is a movie that understands how to engage its audience - a spoonful of philosophy and a bucket of CGI.
The telekinesis wrinkle also provides a desperately needed new spin on the movie's one SUPER-tired device - the whole thing is framed as a found-footage documentary, à la "Blair Witch" or "Cloverfield" (or the original text, Philly's own "Last Broadcast").
Here, Drew is the kid who compulsively records everything. Eventually he uses his powers to float his camera in space - liberating the movie from its mono-angle visual lockdown. Clever.
Now if "Chronicle" could just explain how the kids recorded such terrific sound.