A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Chronicle is an action thriller about three teens who happen upon a strange discovery and, soon after, develop telekinesis and other powers. There's plenty of over-the-top violence (including deaths, the bloody aftermath of fights, explosions, and other mayhem), and the movie also deals with heavy themes -- chronic illness, abuse, rage, family dysfunction, financial distress, and more -- which makes it too intense for younger viewers. Still, it's surprisingly heartfelt, and it captures well the dynamics of teenage male friendships (especially the way they talk). Some scenes portray underage drinking (to the point of drunkenness), and there's also swearing, sexual innuendo, and implied sexual encounters.
What's the story?
Andrew (Dane Dehaan) is lost and in pain. His beloved mother is bedridden, wasting away with disease, her meds so expensive they can barely afford them. His unemployed father can't contain his anger and frustrations, preferring instead to use them as weapons against his son. Andrew's cousin, Matt (Alex Russell), is a help, but they're not that close. And hardly anyone at his school wants to be his friend; they're too busy making fun of him and his penchant for filming his daily life. Then, one day, Andrew, Matt, and their popular classmate, Steve (Michael B. Jordan), discover a hole in the ground that's vibrating with energy. Inside the cave to which it leads is an unexplained energy source that, after they encounter it, suffuses them with powers they could have only dreamed of: They can move objects, they can withstand heavy blows, and they can fly. At first, they use their talents for fun and games ... until the pressures of real life intervene, and one of them snaps.
Is it any good?
Arguably, CHRONICLE's biggest triumph is how it authentically captures the nature of teenage male friendships -- their give and take, what makes them tick. This is what really makes the first half of this fascinating movie, which is part of the same "found-footage" genre as The Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity, succeed (though that conceit seems unnecessarily gimmicky in this case). Watching the three stars is like getting invited into their fraternity. All three actors share a believable rapport; what motivates and intrigues them is what we imagine fascinates high school seniors on the brink of great change in their lives.
The main storyline is also a good hook: What would happen if random teenagers were suddenly equipped with superhero/comic book abilities? It makes so much sense that they'd waste it on a parking lot prank (a hilarious scene), or by tossing a football at warp speed among the clouds. And it also makes so much sense that things would go awry in a hurry. (To quote another superhero: With great power comes great responsibility.) Can teenagers really be expected to act responsibly, especially when they're sitting on a tinderbox of rage? Sadly, it's when this tinderbox ignites that the film loses its focus. Chronicle's last third feels like a rush to tie up loose ends, with a moral lesson to boot. The movie poses an interesting question, but the answer it comes up with is half-baked.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the movie's violence. How does it compare to what you've seen in other movies about people with super powers? Is all of it necessary to the story?
Why are teenagers so cruel to each other sometimes? Parents, talk to your teens about handling bullying in real life.
What is Chronicle trying to say about male friendships? What about how strength can be used (or misused)?
Why do you think Andrew responds to the development of his powers differently from Steve and Matt? How do the unfolding events at home shape his reactions and decisions?
- In theaters: February 3, 2012
- On DVD or streaming: May 15, 2012
- Cast: Alex Russell, Dane DeHaan, Michael B. Jordan
- Director: Jay Alaimo
- Studio: Twentieth Century Fox
- Genre: Science Fiction
- Topics: Superheroes, Adventures
- Run time: 84 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: intense action and violence, thematic material, some language, sexual content and teen drinking
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.