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Chronicle Analysis

This “found footage” / buddy teen / superhero origins Chronicle movie effectively packages the issues of friendship, identity, and personal responsibility into an entertaining thrill-ride.  On a budget.

The Chronicle

Super Emo will Crush YouThe three teen boys – Matt (the loner philosophical guy) and Steve (the super-popular class president) take Andrew (the loner emo guy with a video camera) down a hole to investigate a glowing blue crystal that almost kills them.  But that which doesn’t kill you gives you telekinetic abilities, so the boys “chronicle” their growing powers on video.

The filmmakers effectively capture the fun, randomness, and silliness of teen guy pranks along with the superhero origins concept.  The marriage of these two concepts overcomes one of Hollywood’s basic rules: nothing is more boring than watching characters have a good time.

They overcome this with a unique dramatic tension.  Yes, they’re having a good time, but they’re immature pranksters with new superpowers.  This is what a Spiderman origin story should be like.

But Andrew’s depression surrounding his dying mother and alcoholic father draws him into hostile territory.  Like the murderous teens of Columbine, Andrew starts to think of himself as superior to mortal men, the next step in evolution, and self-talks his way into justifying great violence to get what he wants.

Steve’s universal acceptance and friendship and Matt’s warnings and rules can’t contain Andrew’s downward spiral. But even supermen have problems overcoming the world, as plot elements show.

In the end, teens will ask themselves “what they’re capable of” and personal responsibility will win.

Effective Storytelling

High Concept movies take place on the “cusp of the era”, the place in life when everything changes.  Teen movies are usually about firsts: first love, first car, first independence for parents, etc.

But exploring teens using the Superhero genre (still probably a subgenre of myth) allows us to talk about puberty, hormones, physical maturity, and growing independence without it getting too heavy or squirmy.

Chronicle movie posterYou see, to reach the teen market and explore issues of teen identity and friendship, most storytellers go with drama (Stand By Me) or comedy (Ferris Bueller’s Day Off).  To talk about responsibility, you might use drama (usually after-school specials) but to elevate your story to something that reaches a larger audience, you need to chose from more popular genres.  In this case, myth/superhero (Spiderman) or horror stories (most are about teen trespass, as Scary Movie informs us) serve well.

Chronicle goes a step further, adding elements of thriller.  Unlike Carrie (straight horror), Chronicle pits budding telekinetics against each other, so that not only does the good have to survive, but it has to keep the evil from getting out too.

Then the storytellers wrote a tragedy.  Just as Macbeth or Richard III follows the antagonist, we follow Andrew’s story, willing him to overcome his life’s obstacles until his fatal flaw pushes him past the point of no return.  He’s offered grace several times but makes the decision to live with his villainy rather than change.  So the audience’s allegiances then shift to Matt to stop Andrew.

Then they packaged it in the new, hip “found footage” package (which also solves the inherent moving camerawork issues of this style).

All in all, a well-crafted tale for teens that should start many conversations.

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