Let’s hope the Space Needle has a decent agent. The Seattle landmark has practically a starring role in “Chronicle,” a sci-fi/horror tale of three teenage boys who learn that they have telekinetic powers. Never mind that the movie was primarily shot in Cape Town, South Africa, with a few scenes done in Vancouver, B.C. – “Chronicle” takes place in a weirdly computer-generated Seattle, with the Needle looming above the action like a vulture observing its prey.
Shot in a found-footage style (though not too wobbly, as those things go) and directed by Josh Trank in his feature debut, the story focuses on quiet, withdrawn Andrew (Dane DeHaan), his cynical cousin Matt (Alex Russell) and ultra-popular Steve (Michael B. Jordan), who discover a mysterious gaping hole in the ground one night at a party, as one does, and from it gain telekinetic strengths. This sounds absurd, and indeed it is, as the boys turn out to be “Carrie” on steroids: moving cars with their minds, wreaking havoc in a Toys R Us and soaring above the clouds as they learn to fly.
DeHaan, though his character isn’t particularly developed in the screenplay, has some affecting moments as a kid beaten down by life: His mother is dying, his father is abusive, he’s bullied at school. Telekinesis first seems to be a key to popularity – there’s a funny, lighthearted sequence as Andrew and Steve show off their powers in the school talent show, pretending to be very good magicians – and then becomes something much darker, as Andrew realizes he’s been given the tools to find a terrible revenge.
What would you do, the movie asks, if you suddenly had superpowers? It’s an interesting question, even as it fades away in a blur of chaotic special effects at the end.