When you're young and dreaming of becoming a superhero, you probably tilt back and forth between heroism and villainy. It would probably be great to save the day, but total destruction has its high points as well.
Chronicle, a smart sci-fi thriller from director Josh Trank, looks at three high school students and their uneasy time adapting to new superhero powers. Andrew Detmer (Dane DeHaan), his cousin Matt Garretty (Alex Russell) and their best friend Steve Montgomery (Michael B. Jordan) represent all the social stereotypes of teenage life. Andrew is a loner virgin. Matt is the good-looking pothead. Steve is the big man on campus and set to win the election for class president. John Hughes would be proud.
The three form an unlikely friendship that is highlighted by weekend beerfests and conversations about girls, girls, girls. Like any other movie depicting high school life, it's hard to believe these scenes are accurate, but Chronicle has the good sense of keeping this early exposition as fleeting as possible.
It's only after the three find a cavern in the middle of the woods that things begin to change. Some extraterrestrial power source underneath the earth causes the trio to experience unbelievable strength, the power to fly and the ability to move objects with the mind.
These being a bunch of immature high school students, Andrew, Matt and Steve do what boys do best: They begin a path of destruction. First they test out small experiments, like floating baseballs in the sky and dangling teddy bears above unsuspecting toddlers. Gradually they move into stronger, darker realms, and it becomes increasingly more difficult to hold back the powers.
Andrew, in particular, sees the additional strength as a chance to make retribution for his less-than-ideal home life. His beloved mother is dying, and the family can't afford her medication. His father abuses him and is perpetually drunk. He can't keep a girl's interest for too long, and everyone thinks he's weird. While Matt and Steve keep the powers in prank mode, Andrew slowly morphs into a villain with diabolical plans in his head.