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Chronicle

Virgins are dangerous.

 

Take Andrew (Dane DeHaan) from the new science-fiction film Chronicle. An anonymous teenaged wallflower from a dysfunctional home, Andrew is suddenly given extraordinary powers after he and two buddies brush against something supernatural in a cave. Matt (Alex Russell) and Steve (Michael B. Jordan) are happy to fly around and control objects with their minds, but Andrew has to go all Godzilla on the world because he’s never been to first base.

 

Sure, things begin innocently enough. Andrew seems more precocious than his friends, is able to manipulate Legos better than Matt, who can’t seem to master anything but attracting women, and takes to flying with little or no effort at all when Steve seems to have been practicing forever.

 

When the boys discuss flying to another corner of the world, Andrew demands Tibet . I suppose running away to a monastery is one way of defusing anxiety around members of the opposite sex, but you would hope superman wouldn’t be such a wuss.

 

But let’s face it: Andrew is weird. Take his need to film everything. Sure, it began by videotaping his abusive father breaking down his door (the film’s nod to recent news stories of the like), but when you film yourself eating a hard-boiled egg in the bleachers alone while you ogle the cheerleaders… Well, it’s ok to wonder if you’re just not right.

 

The camera also mediates our understanding of Andrew, Matt and Steve. Because Andrew controls the eye of the camera, we are told the story he wants us to know until that narrative is broken by other videos that inexplicably find themselves woven into the film. I can accept that this “found-footage” movie is actually a video diary Andrew made to document the extraordinary events, but I don’t know how or why I should be able to see the footage of a young female podcaster, TV news reports, or YouTube-style videos spliced in between Andrew’s footage.

 

The shaky found-footage technique is less obtrusive than you might think, however, partially because it breaks with the realistic mode of a Blair Witch by cheating and allowing other perspectives, but also because as Andrew’s powers grow, he gains more control over the camera so that it in effect becomes the omniscient eye of the director. The other characters notice and mention the flying camera that circles them, but in many ways the device becomes invisible.

 

In a way, the omitted scenes are at least as important as those that are included. For example, Andrew’s terminally ill mother’s final scenes go undocumented. (Mom is the only woman who will ever love the poor nerd.) The climatic moment that would resolve Andrew’s sexual dilemma happens off screen. What we do see about the event is strikingly vague and confusing, although the failed outcome is obvious.

 

Matt and Steve can’t understand Andrew’s problem. Steve has already used his telekinetic powers to augment his arsenal of sexual skills and for Matt it’s only a matter of time. He’s already involved in an off-screen / on-screen romance with the podcaster. They do not need the magic powers they’ve gained to impress the ladies. They have other, more natural tools at their disposal.

 

As Steve and Matt peel off in pursuit of satisfying sexual unions, Andrew can do nothing but brood over his non-existent love life. The competition over controlling Lego towers forgotten, he spirals out of control. If he can’t have love, he can at least embrace his new-found strength. If he can’t be a lover, he can at least adopt the pose of the hunter, proving that there’s nothing worse than a Geek with a macho complex.

 

The virgin exchanges violence for intimacy. Had the boy become a man and realized the satisfaction of love, who knows how the film would have ended? Maybe Andrew was only one successful sexual encounter away from true greatness.

 

But one thing is certain, according to logic of this film: if civilization is to survive, the virgins must be stopped!

 

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