YOUNG: A CRITIC'S CHRONICLE


Chronicle

Starring Dane DeHaan, Alex Russell, Michael B. Jordan; directed by Josh Trank

Cleaning up after a screening of Chronicle, a movie theater custodian found an iPad under a seat. Covetously, he toyed with the notion of keeping it, but realized he should probably give it to lost and found.

But before he did, his curiosity made him turn it on, where he noticed a document was still open. After a sentence, it was clear that this was a film critic’s iPad, who must have left it in his hurried exit after the showing. Intrigued, the custodian decided to continue reading. And what he read told an amazing tale.

Apparently, the critic was late to the screening. Making his way to a seat in the darkened theater, the film started as he was standing facing the projector. He was blinded by the bright intense light. It was so powerful and disorienting that he felt light-headed, nearly fainted, and bumped his head on a seat back producing a nosebleed.

After sitting down, he used a napkin he got with his popcorn to staunch the bleeding. As the movie unspooled, he became fixated on the screen and noticed after a couple of minutes that he was amazingly eating the popcorn without the use of his hands — he simply desired more of it and it floated from the container to his mouth. He was astonished, but no one noticed as they were engrossed in the film.

Michael B. Jordan, Dane DeHaan and Alex Russell in Chronicle.
Photo by 2012 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation ©.

The custodian kept reading. The critic’s notes revealed that he became nauseous from the jittery camera movements. Apparently, the film was about three teenagers in Seattle. The movie starts with one of them using his handheld camera. He shows us his room, films his friend while he drives them to school, introduces us to his high school, and wanders around documenting his daily routine — all seen from the perspective of his camera. It turns out the film is another one of those “found footage” films where all action is glimpsed solely from cameras used by the characters or surveillance video. The result: hyper-jittery visuals. But, the critic’s notes turned odd:

It got so bad that I was at risk of purging the contents of my stomach from the motion sickness. I was tempted to look away from herky-jerky images or focus on one corner of the screen. But then a different strange feeling gripped me. I was overcome with calmness when I simply harnessed the power of my mind to focus on the content of the film and not the visuals. This same power helped endure the more dazzling action and special effects later on. In short, I was able to vanquish the visuals!

The custodian heard someone coming, so he carried the iPad to the bathroom to continue privately reading. The critic’s notes describe another amazing phenomenon involving the dialogue that grated on his ears and nerves. It seems that the three teenagers, who were at a house party in the suburbs, happen upon a hole in the surrounding woods. The kids film themselves entering the hole, which produces an ominous thumping sound, and find something mysterious; a large structure of symmetrical crystals in a wall that glows with neon colors, throbs with energy and gives them nosebleeds. The critic commented that they irritatingly banter and goof around at something that should instead produce awe and wonder — and fear. The critic’s notes explain:

The kids’ vocabulary was limited to shouting out each other’s names, yelling at each other, or exclaiming “wah-hoo”. I was about to shout back at the screen, when, after applying some mental energy, I was able to block out their insipid caterwauling and contemplate the film’s concepts. Yet another newfound power as I let my mind wander and flex its range. In other words, I was able to silence the insipidness!

Someone came into the bathroom, so the custodian secured himself in a stall to continue reading. According to the critic’s notes, the glowing throbbing crystals the teenagers discovered gave them superpowers — principally the ability to use their minds to move objects. And they began to use this power for their own amusement and alleviate boredom. But the critic was troubled by this as well. From his notes:

Just like that hole in the ground, I became increasingly frustrated by the gigantic plot holes in this film. Instead of being amazed by their new powers — or even disturbed by them — these kids treat them as something akin to squirting milk from their noses. They never bother to report the glowing, thrumming crystals in the hole, which would freak out any normal kids or cause them to worry that they were exposed to some toxic chemicals or radiation. They seem unconcerned that others might happen on this hole and the crystals and become similarly afflicted with powers or illness. As they become more adept at using their powers, they become more brazen using it, even performing amazing feats at a school talent show. Unbelievably, their classmates seem uninterested in learning how they actually did their stunts. As odd things start happening to people — the three use their powers to playfully menace others and even hurt people like pulling out a bully’s teeth in the crowded school hallway — there never seems to be any investigations or repercussions. But, just as I started to lose my resilience against such obvious flaws, I used my newfound mental powers to look past the plot flaws and just let the film happen. Oh wow! I was able to fly through the plot holes!

Obviously, the critic’s powers were growing, which the custodian found compelling yet disturbing. His notes reflected that he even developed the strength to endure the film’s many clichés. He wrote:

After soaring through the plot holes, I began to notice the raft of clichés running through the film. One of the kid’s fathers is an over-the-top abusive alcoholic, while his mother is sick and dying. This kid is also socially awkward, bullied at school and in his neighborhood, and is, naturally, a virgin. He is not popular, athletic or great looking. He uses his camera as a way to keep the world and people at a distance. When his newfound powers grow, he decides to use them to protect himself from humiliation and abuse. One could see this coming a mile away — even without special mental powers. Like with so many films before it (Carrie, Willard, X-Men, etc.), he uses his powers to seek revenge and gain the strength, power and control that he never felt. Being zapped with the projector light must have done something to me too as now I was able to overlook these clichés and see this film on its own terms. I was able to outrun its obviousness!

The last entry by the critic suggested the apex of the mysterious strengths that infused his mind when blinded by the projector light. The critic seemed to see right through the film. Here are his notes:

It dawned on me, like some light bulb going off above my head. On its surface this film seemed to be about how three average, everyday teenagers might respond to possessing superpowers. Instead of the tired, routine way films depict this, which would have these kids fight bad guys with similar superpowers intent on destroying the earth, these kids use them in everyday encounters and struggles. When they learn to fly, they do what any kid would do — they enjoy it. But, armed with my new mental powers of deduction, it became clear to me that this film was not really about immature kids groping with mental abilities to move objects and create havoc on city streets — which the troubled kid does when his father further abuses him. No, this film is about the cycle of abuse and how it is passed on from generation to generation. The superpower aspect just gives a unique sci-fi gloss to this truism. As abused kids get older, they can find ways to overcome that abuse, or use their powers as adults to act out on it with harmful and tragic results. In sum, I was able to see right through this film! Now I must tell the world! I must use my cinematic insightful powers for public good. I must get out of here!

There were no other entries. But the custodian now had a chronicle of the critic’s experience and observations. Just as he was about to turn it off and deliver it to lost and found, the device gave off a blinding light of its own, causing the custodian to recoil and lose his balance, hitting his nose on the stall door. He dropped the iPad shattering the screen. It was toast. But now the custodian began to feel strange. He looked around and saw uncleanliness all around him that he heretofore had not seen. So, he got back to work with a strange new fervor.

Also appearing on the Ipad was a cryptic description of a person named Doug Young, who was described as the film critic for The Colorado Statesman.