Andrew Detmer (Dane DeHaan) has been suffering since his mother (Bo Petersen) fell ill with terminal cancer, not least because it has made his father (Michael Kelly) even more physically abusive, drinking far too much and taking out his frustrations on the one thing he thinks he can control: his son. But Andrew doesn't have much luck at school either, thanks to being routinely picked on, with only his cousin Matt (Alex Russell) his sole ally, and even then without much enthusiasm. Andrew had decided to video his life for some kind of proof of his misery - but his luck's about to change.
No, this wasn't some high school drama, Chronicle was actually a superhero movie. But wait, it was one of those teen dramas too, an attempt to get under the skin of one of life's victims, and with all those ready, willing and able to find someone to bully to justify their place in the social pecking order, the protagonist was not short of reasons to lash out. This was where the superpowers entered into the fray, as one night after a party, Matt invites his cousin to record him and popular, soon-to-be class president Steve (Michael B. Jordan), investigating a mysterious hole in the ground. Quite what is in there is never explained, but its effects are the catalyst for tragedy which might well have occurred with or without it.
Whatever it is, the three boys now have burgeoning abilities which are growing stronger day by day, centred around telekinesis. At first they can throw baseballs around with their minds, then they begin to graduate to larger objects, and before you know it they can even fly in some excellent scenes of wish fulfilment (though watch out for passing aircraft). But just as your more traditional superhero movie is keen to underline the drawbacks, it doesn't continue as well as they hoped, for no matter what they can do now, they remain the same people and for Andrew, that means a persecution complex that he cannot shake. Which is because he is actually being persecuted.
Chronicle was one of those found footage movies ushered in by The Blair Witch Project, which would seem to render the whole marriage between genre and style which had been done to death with no sign of abatement somewhat groanworthy. But the team of director Josh Trank and writer Max Landis (son of John Landis) were dedicated to their idea, and that was to bring some understanding not so much to what made Spider-Man and his ilk tick, but why there were so many cases of victimised people, mostly men, who saw violence as their only course of action. That need to get even was one which we could well do without in society, and the interesting thing here emerged as the theory that these mass killers were often unable to process their worst experiences into something constructive.
No wonder when every day presents a fresh indignity, yet by putting these feelings in the mindset of a bullied teenager, this was a thought-provoking take on the theme of the worm that turns with dreadful results. DeHaan made for a convincing example, but the filmmakers stressed that having the upper hand after a lifetime of the opposite did not necessarily force you to turn to evil, and that was encapsulated in the characters of Steve and Matt. They did point out, however, that those two, no matter how well they treated Andrew after their shared development, were a few rungs higher up the social ladder than he, which could mean a rather pessimistic take that the victim had two choices: shut up and take the humiliation, or take your revenge. That was a flaw, but this was an action movie after all, and we had to have our grand showdown in Superman II on the streets of Metropolis fashion; another flaw was the cliché about what happened to the black guy, otherwise Chronicle was an intelligent examination of an issue which did not substitute its every rumination for entertainment.