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It is said, “Absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
The saying is put to the test in “Chronicle,” where three teenage boys are touched by an alien entity, giving them ever-growing telekinetic power – the ability to move anything using only their minds.
The boys start small, building Lego towers without touching them. But in time, they move on to moving cars and even lifting themselves into the air and learning to “fly.”
It all starts innocent enough. But what happens when it slowly dawns upon an abused, angry young man that his newfound power means no one can ever push him around again? That he is practically invincible and can make anything he wants happen by only thinking it?
The film is surprisingly intelligent and engaging, creatively filmed through the lenses of security cameras and camcorders, as though the entire story was being documented by one of the characters in the film itself. It’s not an entirely new and novel approach – as “Cloverfield” and other “found footage” films have tried the technique – but “Chronicle” does it well, holding a consistent narrative flow and avoiding much of the vertigo-inducing camera shots of some of its predecessors.
Even the acting, from a cast of essentially unknowns, is largely done well (save for one minor character that’s just a bit too cardboard).
But from a worldview perspective, do the teenagers’ trials and tribulations line up with the truth?
Much of the film flows as human nature would expect – the boys first consider it a lark, then a way to attract the ladies, but then find the power tempts them toward bigger and badder things.
There’s even a scene that illustrates the inherent amorality of an evolutionary worldview.
One of the boys makes the argument that through evolution, one animal in a habitat rises to the top of the food chain, becomes the “apex predator,” and thus preys upon lesser animals without challenge or remorse or constraint.
“The lion does not feel guilty when he kills,” the teenager asserts, developing a line of reasoning that eventually leads him to believe there is no one to hold him accountable, for he has evolved as the “apex predator” among the other, mere humans. “You do not feel guilty when you squash a fly. That means something.”
That means, in the survival-of-the-fittest worldview, that the fittest has free rein to trample the less than fittest … and there’s no one or no thing to stop them. The scene summarizes the inherent danger and horror of a godless, evolutionary philosophy.
Alas, this poignant lesson gets lost at the end of the film, when the moviemakers actually put one of the characters on camera to deliver the “moral” of the story. In what amounts to a very clumsy ending, the character adopts a sadly shallow and inaccurate understanding of human nature, believing that “power corrupts,” not because people are inherently corrupted and fallen (as the Bible teaches), the power only amplifying their sinful nature, but because bad things happen to them, driving them toward doing evil. He buys the lie that people are inherently “good.”
“You’re not a bad person,” he says of the member of the trio who turned vengeful and violent. “I know that. That’s all that matters.”
If that sounds trite and patronizing … it’s because it is. It’s also misguided.
No, all three of the teenage supermen are bad people, or at least sinful people, boys in need of redemption and restraint and sanctification. And when you give absolute power to sinful people, it does corrupt. Absolutely.
- “Chronicle” contains over 70 profanities and obscenities – typical, perhaps, of the stereotypical teenage communities it claims to portray, but more than enough to clutter the script and detract from movie. Though it often seemed natural, better writers and better actors could find more poignant means of communicating emotion.
- The film does focus somewhat on the oversexualized world of teenage hormones, as the “camera operator” character focuses the lens on attractive women (they’re supposed to be teens, but I doubt any actress in the film is younger than 21) and takes the camera to a rave party filled with skimpy outfits, lustful dancing and, well, horny themes all around. Though there is a scene about one of the characters losing his virginity, there are no actual sex scenes or nudity portrayed.
- The film does contain a significant amount of violence, especially when the teens’ powers turn vengeful. There are fights, robberies, explosions, murders, and a fair amount of blood and gore. It’s not quite horror movie, but there are a few disturbing scenes, especially after one of the boys determines he is no longer bound by morality.
- “Chronicle” has a few religious elements, as it discusses philosophy in a couple of instances and the boys talk about how Tibetan monks “have achieved such a level of enlightenment, they can float.” There’s also a funeral conducted in a Christian fashion and a cross prominently displayed over one character’s bed. The elements are merely toyed with, however, and don’t become significant to the story.