Chronicle is a 2012 found footage super-power action film directed by Josh Trank and written by Max Landis 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. They don't exactly become heroic pillars of justice and instead use their powers 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...
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.
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. Word of God is that this was not intentional — the script didn't specify that detail about any of the characters — but that Michael B. Jordan simply blew everyone else away when auditioning for the part, and Trask and Landis eventually decided on casting the best actor rather than a trope-avoidant one.
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 stop it, though he might have at least softened the blow.
Bullying a Dragon: Throughout most of the film, Andrew's father has no idea Andrew has his new powers. Then Andrew grows a backbone, and calls out his dad on the "wasting money on public school" bullcrap. Andrew's father snaps, and attempts to indulge in some child abuse. Andrew wins. Later, after Andrew is in the hospital, his father attempts to do the exact same thing, the only difference is that he thinks Andrew is unconscious. This goes about as well as you would expect.
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.
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 in conflict with his Jerk Ass father, but for the most part he's too browbeaten to seriously call him out... up until Richard accuses Andrew of wasting his money on public school.
You don't pay for public school, you IDIOT!
Camera Screw: The strange object causes the camera to behave erratically.
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; worse still, his habit of filming things turns into a neurotic obsession- note the way he starts collecting cameras during his rampage.
Celebrity Paradox: In a broader form of this general idea, none of the characters refer to or show any awareness of fictional characters with superpowers, as if that genre simply doesn't exist in the movie universe.
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.
Cold-Blooded Torture: Andrew rips a spider apart for fun (see above) and, for revenge, rips bullies' teeth out (see Below).
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 but his motivation is entirely personal; he saves Seattle from destruction at the hands of his cousin.
Matt's turn towards heroism is also implied to be somewhat influenced by him hanging around Casey and watching her blog—she's implied to be something of a Granola Girl interested in fixing the ills of the world, and he wants to look good in her eyes
The original script, where Andrew rips his father apart just like the spider, Matt stabs Andrew with the spear but Andrew's still alive so Matt shoots him in the head, and the government captures Matt and keeps him in a cell while he's injured and screaming for them to help him.Matt still lives, but yikes.
Also of super villains, in that the film takes a closer look at what would drive someone to become one.
The final battle also does a fantastic one on Hero/Villain battles and shows just how terrifying and destructive one would be in real life. Notably it is clear that the SWAT teams and other police officers seem to view the heroic Matt and villainous Andrew as equally dangerous.
At the same time though it's a bit of a Reconstruction. Andrew's development is very similar to classic, Tragic Monster supervillains, with his fall into violence causing Matt's transition into a classic, responsible superhero.
Decoy Protagonist: Soon after Andrew snaps, 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. 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.
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.
The Farmer And The Viper: No matter what happens, Steve is a genuinely nice guy who will stay by Andrew's side, and even goes flying in a thunderstorm to try to talk him down after he's been abused again by his dad. Said friend still kills him anyway.
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: Andrew is The Id, friendly everyman Steve is The Ego. The Superego is Matt, who outlines the rules and morals the group has to play by, quotes philosophy and calls people out on their shit. After Steve is dead there is no longer that buffer between Matt and Andrew so the two extremes are pitted against one another.
Matt's recording at the party epitomizes the sense that Andrew's life might 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.
Idiot Ball: Andrew gets one at the Apex Predator speech. Also, qualifies when he forgets that sending a man driving down a ravine is likely going to cause some major injuries.
Implacable Man: At the end, Andrew is burned, thrown into the sidewalk at high velocity multiple times, collides with a streetlamp, falls onto a car, and keeps on going. Possibly justified, as the hospital would have almost certainly given him painkillers after the burns, but before all the other stuff. So, Andrew's pain threshold was almost certainly out of whack.
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.
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."
Ironic Echo: "I'm stronger than this". Stated initially by Andrew in reference to the hardship he's going through in life. Repeated again when he goes on his rampage, with his new 'apex predator' philosophy.
It Began with a Twist of Fate: Three teenagers accidentally get superpowers just because they decide to check out a weird-looking grave. The source of their superpowers is never even explained.
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!
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.
Jitter Cam: 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.
To be fair, the kid had much more crappy stuff going on in his life than just a bad date. The psychological damage is pretty much set up from the beginning.
Just Hit Him: Andrew would have succeeded in killing his abusive father had he just did a telekinetic dismemberment or such rather than drop him from height, which allowed Matt to save the man.
Possibly an example of Cruel and Unusual Death - rather than an instant kill, Andrew drops his Dad some 20 stories, which almost certainly should have had him just as dead, but he would have had the time to know he was going to die on the way down. Note that against the street thugs, he does a similar thing of scaring them first before killing them.
Karma Houdini: Richard. Even the death of his wife and his son doesn't cover the sheer volume of bad karma he had accumulated.
Though his last act of abuse against a hospitalized Andrew is seen and heard from the camera the police placed in Andrew's room. Given that said abuse triggers the rampage that lays waste to Seattle, the police may have a few questions for Richard about it.
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 with Steve, deconstructed with Matt. Rather than using their powers to help people, the boys just use them to screw around and have fun. Steve is the only heroic character initially, diving in to save the trucker, and being nice to Andrew from the beginning. Matt starts out as just a bit of a jerk, but becomes an even greater hero through Character Developmentand is ultimately the only one to survive.
Shoot the Dog: Literally in the original script by none other than Andrew.
Lack of Empathy: While pushing that truck off the road is Andrew's first major Kick the Dog moment, the first sign that something is very wrong with him is the fact that he doesn't understand why Matt and Steve are mad at him for it.
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.
A Man Is Not a Virgin: Discussed. Steve hears that Matt has gone a long time without sex and Andrew is a virgin. His response? "Then how are you guys so cool?"
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.
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.
Mook Horror Show: The Neighborhood Drug Dealers who tried to mock him wind up running away screaming the moment he kills one of them.
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 Face-Heel Turn.
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.
There's even a deleted scene here that shows Matt telekinetically stirring his milkshake.
Nice Guy: Despite his early mischief, 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; all three are injured at one point or another in the movie by things they didn't see coming.
Not So Stoic: 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 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", this could be the case.
Personality Powers: The guys all have the same powers, but each of them is proficient in one specific usage of them. Steve, the free spirit, is the first one to figure out flight. Andrew, the abused kid with tons of pent-up anger, is best at moving and controlling stuff. Matt, who is the most cautious about the use of his powers, develops his telekinesis more slowly than the others, and mostly excels at using it defensively.
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.
The Precarious Ledge: The boys entertain themselves by sitting on extremely high ledges without fear. This is on purpose, of course, as the boys' powers have made them feel fearless. Which comes back to bite them...
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.
As the only one who both survives and learns his lesson, Matt is a reconstruction.
Satellite Love Interest: Casey is notable in that being a Satellite Love Interest was a cover for her actual role in the film; to provide another camera for the film's Found Footage style. Ironically, she clearly has more depth than he does near the start, and they seem to have some offscreen development of their relationship.
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. 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.
Unfortunately, both Josh Trank and Max Landis won't be involved with the sequel, as Fox wasn't happy with Max's script he had made for it.
Shoo Out the Clowns: Steve is the most consistently easy-going and friendly character in the movie, who is also the most laid-back about his powers. Interestingly, it is with his death that things go seriously down-hill and Andrew's decent into madness begins in earnest.
Spiritual Successor: More than a few reviewers have pointed out how the film draws on similar elements and themes from Stephen King's Carrie. Word of God from Landis himself confirms that this and Firestarter were major inspiriations for the film.
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.
That's a prescient assumption because Kimberly Peirce explicitly stated that her 2013 version of Carrie is designed as a superhero origin story.
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.
Team Dad: Matt, who's very stern with Andrew and always calls him out on the things that he does later on in the movie.
Team Mom: Steve, who's a lot more sympathetic toward Andrew and pretty much The Heart of the trio before he dies.
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.
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 accidentally arguably 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.
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.
Worst Aid: In the climax, Matt successfully lands a hit on Andrew, and sends him falling into a lamppost, a car door, and finally the sidewalk. Despite a high probability of injury to Andrew's spine, Matt starts attempting to drag him away before the cops show up.
Yank the Dog's Chain: After the talent show, Andrew's popularity with his schoolmates skyrockets. Yet, he royally screws this up and become even more of a laughingstock in the same night.