Chronicle is a found footage film, with all the problems that are inherent in the genre (it seems wrong, somehow, to refer to it as a genre: it’s a way of telling a story using the medium of film that encompasses many genres) and other limitations imposed on it by its plot and familiarity. As a found footage film it has the problem of trying to show the entire film’s events from the point of view of one of the characters, which it firstly tries to overcome by using other camera sources (notably security cameras) and then discarding the concept altogether.
Story wise, it owes more than a slight debt to Akira. I am unsure how much this is a homage that the audience is meant to acknowledge and how much it is presenting it as new, shamelessly appropriating the imagery for itself. It lacks the kinetic invention, the sense of the impossible and the sheer scope of its parent work, but it isn’t without merits of its own.
The story centres on 3 boys who decide to investigate a strange hole in the ground which has been caused by something crashing into it. They are an odd group: the most popular kid in school, a hypocrite trading on his outsider status and his cousin, who is the most immediately sympathetic of the group as he is the least socially adept and has an ill mother and abusive father. After climbing out of the ground they find that they have gained what appears to be telekinesis.
The boys bond together, united by their powers and also the possibilities that these open up to them. They find that their powers develop and strengthen through practice, much as they were muscles. However, they also decide that using their powers brings risk of attention and causing harm to others. They decide to impose rules on themselves (some more begrudgingly than others) and the real tension at the heart of the film is the strain this puts on their relationships and how much they break their self imposed discipline.
Using their powers, the boys find themselves more popular but also their relative statuses changing and this causes problems as they become jealous and also fear that their powers have changed one another and come to resent each other. Sometimes this manifests in violence and sometimes in passive aggressive behaviour. Although the film is largely predictable (especially if you’re familiar with Akira) it also has an emotional heart and is reasonably well acted. There is an air of inevitability to the ending that isn’t so much borne of predictability but of the character arcs and their logical conclusion. It’s not an epic film and doesn’t necessarily say anything new, but it does manage spectacle well and the ending is genuinely strong.