Chronicle

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Angst-ridden teenager with unlimited power....perfectly safe.

Chronicle is a 2012 sci-fi/action/coming of age film directed by Josh Trank focusing on three teenage boys who discover a mysterious object in a cave on the outskirts of town. They soon discover that exposure to the object has granted each of them telekinetic abilities. As they practice with their abilities, they get stronger with them, and learn to fly and protect themselves from harm. While they don't exactly become heroic pillars of justice with their powers, they mostly use them for random pranks and goofing around, as teen boys do.

However, they soon discover that the gifts they have been granted may be drawing out their darker and more dangerous sides...

For a movie with a similar plot, see Akira.


Tropes used in Chronicle include:
  • A God Am I/Nietzsche Wannabe: Andrew and his "Apex Predator" speech.
  • Abusive Parents: Richard Detmer, especially in his final scene.
  • Ambiguous Situation: It's unclear whether Steve's death was due to a freak but natural lightning bolt, or if Andrew was somehow responsible--and even if he was it's not clear if it was killing him in a rage or losing control of his power.
  • Applied Phlebotinum: Magic Meteor
  • Arc Words: "You're stronger than this." First said by Andrew's mother to reassure him. Given an Ironic Echo at the end, after Andrew goes off the deep end.
  • Berserk Button: Don't tell Andrew what to do. And GET AWAY FROM HIM.
  • Big Man on Campus: Steve.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Matt defeats Andrew before he can cause any more damage, but several people have been killed, including Steve, and we are left with the lingering sense that Andrew's downfall could have been prevented.
  • Black Dude Dies First: Steve is killed 3/4 through the movie, becoming the first character to die. It's implied that Andrew did it, possibly unintentionally.
  • Body Horror: Happens to a spider at one point.
  • Bond Breaker: Ultimately, Andrew, for choosing to take his father's Hannibal Lecture on "they're not your friends" to heart.
  • Bullet Catch:
    • Andrew successfully does this while rampaging through Seattle, catching massed automatic fire from a SWAT team.
    • Matt not so much. He gets shot at once, and can't completely stop it, though he at least softens the blow.
  • Cain and Abel: Played with. Andrew and Matt are cousins, not actual brothers, and Andrew is the younger sibling, but develop this dynamic in the finale. However, it is the Abel-like Matt who kills his cousin, but does it reluctantly and only as a very last resort.
  • California Doubling: Cape Town for Seattle.
  • Camera Abuse:
    • Some bullies take Andrew's camera and slide it along the floor.
    • A drink gets spilled on the lens of Andrew's camera at one point.
    • Andrew's first camera gets buried after they discover the underground cave.
    • The camera falls a few times while the boys practice flying.
    • During the climax which was filmed from multiple cameras, many of them end up getting smashed.
  • Calling the Old Man Out: Andrew's constantly quarreling with his Jerkass father.
  • Car Fu: During the final fight, Andrew hits Matt with a telekinetically thrown bus.
  • Caught on Tape: To be expected. It is implied that Andrew bought the first camera so his alcoholic father won't beat him for fear of this. It doesn't stop him and Andrew never does anything with the footage.
  • Character Development: Matt goes from standing around and telling Steve to be careful when Steve dives into the raging river to save the guy in the car Andrew crashed, to unhesitatingly rescuing Richard when Andrew drops him.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Andrew explains how his father used to be a firefighter. Andrew wears his father's old firefighting gear during a string of robberies, the last of which ends in a fiery explosion at a gas station.
    • The firefighting gear he was wearing also saved his life when the explosion happened. He was literally on fire after the explosion, and the heat-resistant clothing probably reduced the damage he received.
  • Chekhov's Skill: As they experiment with their powers, the boys learn they can create barriers around themselves. Andrew shows this to Matt by stabbing at his hand with a fork. The fork loses. This is the only skill which Matt shows an innate grasp of, and later on, when Andrew catches him with his defenses down and hurls a bus at him, this skill explains his survival.
  • Colbert Bump: The term "apex predator" received a considerable spike in searches after this movie came out.
  • Comes Great Responsibility: Double Subverted and Deconstructed. At first, the kids never think of using their powers for the common good, as opposed to shits and giggles. Then, after the incident with the trucker, Matt lays down the rules for the ethical use of superpowers (see Mind Over Manners below); the kids still don't use their powers to help people, but at least stop dicking around with them. Then, after Andrew loses his shit, Matt inadvertently becomes a true hero: although his motivation is entirely personal, he basically saves Seattle from destruction at the hands of his cousin.
  • Comic Book Movies Don't Use Codenames: Andrew refers to himself as an "Apex Predator" during his rampage, which is the closest any of the super powered characters get to using an alias.
  • Coming of Age Story: With superpowers!
  • Composite Character: Andrew shares several similarities with Akira's Tetsuo. Both being angsty teenagers that gain telekenetic powers and end up going mad with them. His personality also seems to be modeled after the profiles of real life high school murderers, e.g. the Columbine kids.
  • Dawson Casting: All of the leads are in their 20's.
  • Death by Irony:
    • Andrew saves Steve's life in the airplane incident... only to accidentally (?) kill him in the thunderstorm scene.
    • Andrew styles himself an "apex predator". He is Impaled with Extreme Prejudice with a spear from a statue representing a tribal hunter. Really, he brought it onto himself.
  • Deconstruction:
    • Of teens gaining superpowers.
    • Also of super villains, in that the film takes a closer look at what would drive someone to become one.
  • Decoy Protagonist: Soon after Andrew crosses the Moral Event Horizon, we switch the point of view to Matt. Possibly foreshadowed during Matt's "apology" scene with Casey as recorded by her camera, while Andrew is nowhere around. From then on, we repeatedly see things from Matt's perspective, setting him up as the kid with a conscience. This narratively puts him on a collision course with Andrew.
  • Despair Event Horizon: So, Andrew is now the king of the school, after the "illusions" and "magic tricks" he and Steve did at the talent show. Finally getting some real popularity, he attends a giant party at Steve's house, and ends up going with a girl for "private time." Sadly, between (most likely) nerves and too much alcohol, he loses his lunch. This sets off a chain reaction where his school image is actually WORSE than it used to be, with fresh fodder for teasing. After some telekinetic dentistry on school bullies, he gets yelled at by his cousin over the abuse of power. He THEN gets yelled at by his father, who had discovered his camera, who says that the other boys "aren't his friends", and that they were having fun at his expense instead of with him. Despite finally standing up to his father during the fight, that one part sinks in, and is the part that pushes Andrew into full misanthropy.
    • And just in case that wasn't enough, after Murphy's Law seems to have been fulfilled and Andrew is lying in a hospital bed, having likely caused his best friend's and possibly even his mother's deaths... his dad decides to Kick the Dog. Which turns out to be Bullying a Dragon. Cue the climax.
  • Don't Make Me Destroy You: Andrew threatens his father nearly enough with exact words.

Andrew: I could crush you! Do you know that? I could crush you!
Matt to Andrew before killing him: Don't make me do this!

  • Drowning My Sorrows: Richard seems to have a shitty enough life for it.
  • Drunk on the Dark Side: Andrew in the final showdown.
  • Eldritch Abomination: The stone...plant...thing that gives the boys their powers has difinite shades of this. Interferes with technology? Check. Mysterious? Check. Inexplicable powers over reality? Check.
  • Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas: Andrew's mother is seemingly the only person he shows affection towards, and, conversely, the only person who seems to truly care for him.
  • Evil Costume Switch: Andrew's firefighting gear and gas mask make for a nice little makeshift supervillain costume.
  • Evil Sounds Deep / Evil Is Hammy: When Andrew goes amok in the climax, he starts yelling a lot and his voice gets deeper.
  • Face Heel Turn: Andrew, after he beats the living heck out of his father and decides to start robbing people in order to help his mother.
  • Fake American: Alex Russel (Matt) has a pretty strong Aussie accent behind the scenes.
  • Finger Gun: Andrew uses one to knock out a local gang member.
  • Flying Brick: When the boys master their powers, they come very close to this archetype: they can fly, kick major ass, and resist damage.
  • Found Footage Films: Subverted in that the film uses multiple cameras owned by different people.
  • Four-Temperament Ensemble: Andrew is melancholic, Steve is choleric and Matt is phlegmatic.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • After the talent show, Matt mentions that Andrew's expanding ego and hubris will be his downfall. He says it semi-jokingly, but it's from that point on that things start going downhill.
    • During the toy store scene, Andrew holds a red lightsaber like the one used by Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader. Also, evidently, a Shout-Out.
    • During the Lego scene, Andrew builds a model of the Seattle Space Needle. Guess where the climax occurs? Contrary to the end of that scene, though, the Needle survives.
  • Freudian Trio: Steve as The Superego, Matt as The Ego, and Andrew as The Id.
  • From Nobody to Nightmare: This is what Andrew becomes due to his already screwed up life.
  • Genre Busting: Teen Drama? Thriller? Sci-fi action? A Deconstructed Superhero Origins tale?
  • Healthcare Motivation: Andrew beats up some thugs and steals money from a convenience store to pay for his mother's pills, an example of Type 2 of this trope.
  • Hope Spot:
    • Matt's recording at the party epitomizes the sense that Andrew's life might really start improving. Tragically, it's all downhill from there.
    • Why Richard, do you finally seem to care about your son when he's in a coma? Oh, you don't, you're just here to heap some more abuse on the pile.
  • How Do I Shot Web?: A good deal of the second act involves the trio learning how to use their telekinetic powers, as well as their application.
  • I Did What I Had to Do: Matt says this word for word after killing Andrew. Foreshadowed when Andrew himself dismisses Matt with a "You do what you have to do" when the latter is threatening to stop him from abusing his powers.
  • Ill Girl: Mrs. Detmer.
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: The final fate of Andrew, to stop his rampage.
  • Insane Troll Logic: Richard wordlessly barges into Andrew's room and slaps him out of his seat in his first onscreen scene. He rationalizes it by screaming that Andrew should "open the door when I say so". This goes to demonstrate how Richard's drinking problem has rendered him increasingly detached from reality, and it foreshadows what he says to Andrew during the hospital scene.
  • Interface Screw: The strange object causes the camera to behave erratically.
  • In-Universe Camera: Used consistently throughout the movie. Editing is achieved by jumping from camera to camera, including security cameras and cellphones. Also, even though the cameras are in universe, they are still able to film sections of it like a typical third person movie by having Andrew use his powers to levitate various cameras around. It's implied that Andrew starts doing this unconsciously. Towards the end, he steals all the cameras and smartphones from every bystander in the Space Needle, for no real purpose other than to perhaps clinically document his rampage. He then seems to do the same thing with the cops, taking their dashboard and helmet cameras. Matt foreshadows/lampshades this early on when he says that the camera is like a barrier between Andrew and the world. Andrew's reply? "Maybe I want a barrier."
  • Jerkass: It doesn't take much to realize that Andrew's father, Richard, is simply using his son as an outlet for venting his stress and passing blame for his family's financial issues from himself. He even calls Andrew selfish for keeping an expensive camera (that was a gift from his cousin) from him (after said camera caught him searching through his son's room, clearly looking for money.) True, he does care deeply for his wife and wants to help get her the treatment she needs, but that raises the question as to why he can't stop spending money on alcohol rather than blaming everything on his son. The fact that when we first hear his voice he's established to be a belligerent alcoholic that is essentially responsible for Andrew's instability doesn't help either.

Richard: You're hoarding a five-hundred dollar camera from me while your mother is dying and every penny of mine goes to your school!
Andrew: You don't pay for public school, you idiot!

  • Jerkass Victim:
    • It's easy not to feel too bad when Andrew rips the bully's teeth out, kills the street thugs, or nearly murders his abusive father.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Jerk: When Richard comes to see an injured Andrew in the hospital, he starts crying by his bedside. Seems like he actually feels bad about what happened to his son. We then find out he's crying because Andrew's mom died, and proceeds to blame Andrew for it.
  • Jittercam: Played straight for the first parts of the movie, but later averted due to Andrew keeping the camera steady and constantly running using his powers.
  • Jumping Off the Slippery Slope: Andrew is a troubled, misunderstood kid who doesn't do well on his first date and then proceeds to kill everyone he considers weaker than him.
  • Karma Houdini: Richard. Even the death of his wife and his son doesn't cover the sheer volume of bad karma he had accumulated.
  • Kick the Dog: Andrew has a lot of moments where it counts - when he didn't think it was wrong to veer a car off the road; after he accidentally kills Steve; when he videotapes Steve's funeral; when he tears a spider limb-from-limb for no reason; and when he gives that Apex Predator speech ("A lion doesn't feel guilty when it eats a gazelle").
  • Kick the Son of a Bitch: When Andrew beats up his abusive father, when he tears Wayne the bully's teeth out, takes his revenge on the hoodlums, and when he tries to kill his father by dropping him from high in the air.
  • Kid Hero: Subverted and deconstructed. Matt is the only one of the boys who can be considered a true hero, and, not coincidentally, the only one to survive by the end.
  • Leave Me Alone: Delivered by Andrew, right before he blows the police surrounding him away.
  • Loners Are Freaks: More than a little implied with Andrew, especially before the incident that gave him powers.
  • Madden Into Misanthropy: Andrew, and not in the funny Comedic Sociopathy kind of way.
  • Messianic Archetype: Steve comes the closest out of the three. He's also notably the first one to learn to fly.
  • Mind Over Manners: Matt tries to establish rules for the safe and ethical use of their powers after their telekinesis gets so strong that Andrew almost kills a redneck trucker.

1. Don't use your powers on living things.
2. Don't use your powers when angry.
3. Don't use your powers in public.

  • Mind Over Matter: The boys' powers.
  • Missing Trailer Scene: A couple of scenes that appear in the trailers did not show up in the theatrical version, though they are restored in the extended cut.
  • Mood Whiplash: The boys' usage of their powers goes from playful to tragic in quite a few scenes.
  • Mugging the Monster: Picking on a kid with telekinetic powers ends as well as expected. The fact that Andrew begins to retaliate in this manner is the first sign of his Start of Darkness.
  • Mundane Utility: All over the place, including Steve floating food to his mouth, Andrew doing magic tricks, Andrew operating his camera telekinetically (even as Matt and Steve keep on using their hands for this,) and Andrew moving puddles out of his path.
  • Nice Guy: Apart from some of the Super Dickery, Steve is the one genuinely affable character in the film, from start to finish.
  • Nigh Invulnerability: The boys learn to create a telekinetic "barrier" around themselves, protecting them from physical attack. Emphasis on the "nigh" in this case, though; all three are injured at one point or another in the movie by things they didn't see coming.
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: Steve is a genuinely nice guy who befriends Andrew, and even goes flying in a thunderstorm to try to talk him down after he's been embarrassed. This results in Steve getting killed.
  • Not So Different: Richard and Andrew. Both are immature pricks who care deeply for the same woman. Both of them are struggling with depression and massive inferiority complexes. Neither show mercy towards those they deem deserving of punishment. The only difference? One is an alcoholic and the other is a telekinetic. Cue Curb Stomp Battle.
  • Not So Stoic: Pothead pseudo-philosopher with hints of a superiority complex, Matt steadily starts showing real emotion in response to Andrew's Face Heel Turn until he's sobbing uncontrollably moments before killing Andrew.
  • Not the Fall That Kills You: Averted. Matt noticeably uses his telekinesis to halt the falling Richard before catching him.
  • Not Using the Z Word: The kids never compare themselves to, say, Peter Parker or the Fantastic Four, and no one uses the words "superpower" or "superhero", as if comic books simply don't exist in this universe. Considering the boys have to look up "telekinesis" in the dictionary before they can put a name on "the thing we can do where we move stuff with our minds", maybe this is exactly the case.
  • Not Wearing Tights: See directly above.
  • Pay Evil Unto Evil: Andrew's modus operandi before Jumping Off the Slippery Slope.
  • Person of Mass Destruction: In the final act, Andrew becomes so powerful that he can lay waste to a metropolis if left unchecked.
  • Power Perversion Potential: It's teen goofs with superpowers. The preview pretty much hangs a lampshade on it.
    • At one point, they turn on a leaf blower to blow some girls' skirts up.
    • Steven implies that he uses his power to "vibrate" his girlfriend. Wink, wink.
  • Protagonist Journey to Villain: Andrew
  • Psychic Powers: Telekinesis, which is a very broad-range superpower for the creative.
  • Psychic Nosebleed: The boys get this when they overuse their powers. They also apparently get it when one of the others is in trouble.
  • Psychopathic Manchild: What Andrew becomes by the end.
  • Reality Ensues/Deconstruction: The whole film is this to Spider-Man and other teen superheroes. In that story, the angsty teenage outcast who gets superpowers winds up learning about his great responsibility and heroically fighting all manner of dastardly evil. Andrew, however, acts exactly like one would expect an angsty teenage outcast to act when given superpowers. It doesn't help that instead of an Uncle Ben, Andrew is stuck with an abusive, raging alchoholic for a parental figure.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Every conversation Richard has with his son Andrew degenerates into one of these.
  • Reed Richards Is Useless: Subverted at the end. Matt, the only surviving character with superpowers states he's going to use them to help people. Previously, the characters just used it for fun or self-gain.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge
  • Sacrificial Lamb: Unfortunately, Steve.
  • Secret Identity: Subverted. Andrew goes out to rob the neighborhood thugs dressed in his father's old fire-fighting gear with face-concealing mask. They recognize him almost instantly by his voice and his distinctive backpack.
  • Self-Made Orphan: Subverted. Andrew almost succeeds in killing his father, but, as he falls from a great height, he is rescued by Matt.
  • Sequel Hook: There are subtle hints that the government is not unaware of the source of the boys' powers, and Matt promises to "find out what happened." Also somebody had to collect all that footage and splice it together. And who else do you think would have gone to all the trouble to dig up Andrew's first camera, that got buried with the meteorite/artifact?. By the way, a sequel is confirmed as being in the works.
  • Sex as Rite-Of-Passage: It'd discussed by the boys and ultimately subverted.
  • Shallow Love Interest: Casey is only in the film to be Matt's Love Interest (and to give the movie another cameraman to follow).
  • Shoo Out the Clowns: Steve is the most consistently easy-going and friendly character in the movie, who is also arguably the most laid-back about his powers. Interestingly, it is with his death that things go seriously down-hill and Andrew's Start of Darkness begins in earnest.
  • Shout-Out:
    • "The Baseball Test", an experiment the boys do with their powers, smacks of Jackass. The found footage style certainly helps.
    • Word of God confirms one to AKIRA in the third act with Andrew wearing hospital gown.
    • Matt wears a T-shirt featuring the logo of the starship Nostromo.
    • The strange object that gave them powers looks straight out of the planet Krypton.
    • In the final showdown, Andrew attacks Matt... with a telekinetically hurled bus, similar to General Zod fighting the Man of Steel in Superman II
  • Spiritual Successor: More than a few reviewers have pointed out how the film draws on similar elements and themes from Stephen King's Carrie
  • Stalking Is Love: When Matt confesses to stalking Casey, she is definitely more turned on than creeped out. It's somewhat lampshaded when Matt chuckles and admits he shouldn't have used the word 'stalking'. More likely it was his own awkward way of admitting to having a crush on her.
  • Start of Darkness: The movie, contrary to the marketing, is told from Andrew's perspective. You can blame it on his father, too.
  • Super Dickery: Pretty much how the teens start out.
  • Superhero: The question of whether Chronicle is a superhero movie or not is approaching Internet Backdraft levels. Despite the word "superhero" or "superpowers" never being mentioned, the ways the boys gain their power is heavily reminiscent of Marvel Comics classics (particularly Spider-Man or Fantastic Four), and the further dynamic of the film, particularly the third act, cements this impression.
  • Super-Hero Origin: By the end of the film, Matt has experienced a My Greatest Failure (having to kill his cousin in order to save a lot of other people's lives), is motivated by that experience to learn more about the origin and nature of his powers, and is in Tibet, which is basically Memetic Dagobah for budding superheroes.
  • Superpower Lottery: Played with. All of the boys get identical powers (very broadly implemented telekinesis), but their degrees of mastery varies.
  • Teens Are Monsters: At first, some teens are shown to be bullies, hoodlums, or simply inconsiderate assholes, but all of this is within normal limits. Then, Andrew loses his shit, and this trope is set loose.
  • The Tooth Hurts: A bully gets a few teeth telekinetically ripped out. Shortly after it happens, the audience is treated to a detailed explanation of how it was done, up to and including a mention about how two of the teeth were accidentally sliced in half when they came out.
  • Tragedy: An excellent example of a modern tragedy. Lampshaded by Matt's comment about "hubris".
  • Trailers Always Spoil: The entire second half of the trailer does all it can to give away Andrew's Face Heel Turn, which doesn't really set in until more than halfway through the movie.
  • Villain Protagonist: Sure, Andrew becomes an Omnicidal Maniac with a God complex, but that doesn't stop the focus on him.
  • Vomit Discretion Shot: When Andrew pukes for the first time, we don't see the process, although we do see the icky aftermath. When he does it again near the end of the movie, it is pretty much a Vomit Indiscretion Shot.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Andrew murders and robs four bullies and holds up a store so he can get enough money to pay for his mom's medicine.
  • What Do You Mean Its Not Symbolic: Andrew's dark descent and ultimate rampage are heavily reminiscent of the way most kids who bring guns to school are pushed, except on a much grander scale.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Casey vanishes from the film after Matt rescues her from Andrew.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Matt keeps calling Andrew out on every major Kick the Dog moment he does, from the time he veered a car off the road (and didn't think it was wrong), to killing Steve and bringing his camera to the funeral.
  • With Great Power Comes Great Perks: Could possibly be The Movie of the trope. After three high-school guys are given telekinetic powers by a mysterious artifact hidden at the bottom of a crater, they mainly use their newfound abilities to waste time in increasingly spectacular ways, from playing pranks on customers at a department store, to playing football several thousand feet off the ground. Unfortunately, a very nasty combination of Abusive Parents and bullying at school eventually turns one of them into a supervillain.
  • With Great Power Comes Great Insanity:
    • In the end, Andrew is a rampaging lunatic with his powers and Matt has no choice but to kill him to stop him.
    • Reversed with Matt, who starts out as a pseudo-philosopher pothead, but ultimately becomes a better and more responsible person after gaining power.
  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: Andrew and then some.
  • Worf Had the Flu: Andrew is the strongest out of the three boys, but failed to take out Matt in the climax -- even though it should have been pretty easy considering the level of control he has over his powers -- and was easily killed by him instead. The fact that he only recently emerged from a coma, was suffering from severe burn wounds and probably also heavily doped up on painkillers likely affected his performance.
  • X Meets Y: Hoo boy.
  • Yank the Dog's Chain: After the talent show, Andrew's popularity with his schoolmates skyrockets. Yet, he manages to royally screw this up and become even more of a laughingstock in the same night.
  • You Are Not Alone: Both Steve and Matt try to invoke this with Andrew (with the latter even using it word for word), unfortunately, Andrew is too far past the Despair Event Horizon for it to work.