Chronicle, directed by Josh Trank from a screenplay by Max Landis, gives a clever twist to the superhero formula. Andrew (Dane DeHaan) is a high school student who lives with his abusive father (Michael Kelly) and his terminally ill mother (Bo Peterson). At school, Andrew is bullied by other students. He buys himself a video camera, and begins taping all of his experiences. His cousin, Matt (Alex Russell) takes him to a rave party. Matt gets bored with the party, so he and his friend, Steve (Michael B. Jordan) go wandering in the woods outside, where they find a cave. They persuade Andrew to videotape them exploring it. Inside they find some glowing rocks. Days later, the three find that they can move objects with their minds. Their powers increase over time, until they can fly through the air. Instead of dressing up in costumes and fighting super-villains, however, they play pranks on people. Then they try becoming performers. Things start to unravel, however, when Steve is killed by lightning while flying. Andrew then begins using his powers to get even with the school bullies and then with his father. When Andrew is unable to pay for a prescription that his mother desperately needs, he goes on a crime spree to raise the money. This has tragic results.

The film is done in a “found footage” style similar to that used in The Blair Witch Project and in the Paranormal films. This seems gimmicky at first, but it ends up giving the film a degree of verisimilitude that is unusual for this type of fantasy film. (Though when Matt flies in through Andrew’s bedroom window, it seems a bit too much like something out of the old Superman TV series.)

This film could be interpreted as being about Lord Acton’s dictum that “power corrupts”, but it is actually Andrew’s powerlessness that drives his rage and his growing megalomania. It could be argued that powerlessness actually corrupts as well.

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