By Robert Horton Herald Movie Critic
We never learn the source of the superpowers doled out to the heroes of “Chronicle,” and it doesn’t matter. Some gizmo is buried in the ground near their hometown of Seattle, they touch it and get nosebleeds, and before long they’re lifting cars with mind power and flying around the top of the Space Needle without wings.
Telekinesis, they figure it’s called. And for a while, this newfound gift gives “Chronicle” a certain amount of goofy energy.
Because the three guys are high-school students, they don’t have particularly enlightened ideas for how to use their powers. A few pranks, some flying around, a couple of lessons doled out to bullies. Nobody thinks of solving world hunger.
Scriptwriter Max Landis and director Josh Trank make the central character, Andrew (Dane DeHaan), a gloomy misfit who’s documenting all this paranormal activity with his video camera. So yes, this is another movie where everything we see is happening through the lens of somebody’s camcorder, with the occasional security-camera view thrown in.
I can’t think of a reason to play the film this way, although the “found footage” approach does have a payoff, when Andrew learns how to levitate and move the camera by will. This means he can create his own crane shots and overhead angles without actually touching the camera: He’s a regular little Scorsese in the making.
We sense that Andrew is the guy who’s not going to handle the power too well (the other, more balanced pals are played by Alex Russell and Michael B. Jordan), and the second half of the movie basically waits around for him to lose it.
It’s a letdown, because the early reels are solid, and the flying scenes — these three dudes in parkas, zooming in the clouds — are a great idea that’s been waiting for technology to make it look seamless. (Sorry, Superman.)
What it all comes down to is a big fight through (and above) the streets of Seattle. Which is to say, the streets of Vancouver, B.C., with a computer-generated Space Needle and skyline green-screened in.
A cool idea will keep a movie aloft for only so long, and “Chronicle” is a reminder of that rule. Maybe the movie’s only as good as its heroes, and their unimaginative ideas about how to use their gifts (you’ll keep thinking of things you would do with superpowers, instead of this nickel-and-dime stuff) is what keeps the material from soaring.
Three high-school guys in Seattle gain the power of telekinesis, which allows them to pull pranks but also fly above the city. The movie can’t sustain its cool idea, even if the flying scenes are a kick.
Rating: PG-13, for violence, subject matter.
Showing: Alderwood Mall, Cinnebarre, Everett Stadium, Galaxy Monroe, Marysville, Stanwood, Metro, Pacific Place, Blue Fox, Cascade Mall.