OKAY, THE X-MEN are great and all, but let's not fool ourselves: If real teenagers had superpowers, they'd be pretty goddamn insufferable. Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters would be a crappy public high school, everyone would have iPhones and video cameras instead of X-Jets and Cerebros, and the superkids themselves would be super annoying.
Hey, that reminds me of the super annoying kid in Chronicle! Chronicle goes out of its way to make us feel sorry for Andrew (Dane DeHaan), a loser high school senior in Seattle who insists on carrying a video camera with him wherever he goes—ostensibly because it helps him cope with having a sick mom, a drunk dad, and zero social skills, but actually because Chronicle is a "found footage" movie like Cloverfield. While hanging out with his cousin Matt (Alex Russell) and Matt's pal Steve (Michael B. Jordan), Andrew wisely decides to blindly jump into a mysterious, dangerous hole in the woods; within two minutes, these three dipshits find a Dark Crystal or something and it gives them superpowers. At first it's just telekinesis, but soon enough, they're flying around and using their newfound abilities to beat up bullies and get laid. Throughout, there's a not-so-subtle suggestion that one of these three is going to become more supervillain than superhero—but whoever could it be?! (Tiny hint: IT'S THE WHIMPERING ONE WHO WON'T SHUT THE FUCK UP ABOUT HOW HARD LIFE IS.)
There's some cool stuff in Chronicle—it's nice to see fake people with superpowers be just as selfish and petty as real people, and the kids' superpowers are suitably creepy and bombastic. But the movie's also insistently dour and pretty boring: After sitting through a decade's worth of comic book blockbusters, the one thing no one is asking for is another superhero origin story. For all its attempts to do something different, Chronicle ultimately feels like the same thing we've seen a billion times already. Except with whinier characters. And not even a single X-Jet.