When I first discovered that Star Wars had a website, I was impressed with Bryan Young’s series Cinema Behind Star Wars. It was amazing to see Young break down how much Star Wars has influenced films across the decades past and present. After watching Chronicle in 2012, I was amazed at how much of the prequel trilogy resonates within Josh Trank’s found-footage masterpiece. I was also blown away by how later that year Supernatural aired a found footage episode called “Bitten,” which is a perfect love letter to Chronicle.
I want to discuss the former of the two.
I was drawn to Chronicle back in 2011 when the trailer was released. It was a YouTube commercial, and I was seconds away from skipping it. I was intrigued by the found footage aura as seen before at the time by the Paranormal Activity films. The idea was pretty great. What would it be like to get superpowers if you are a high school kid? What would it be like if you were a Jedi? What would happen if you knew someone with great power but sensed a dark side looming? If you saw the trailer, you feel the Star Wars allegorical vibes.
Dane DeHaan plays Andrew Detmer. There are many Anakin Skywalker moments throughout the film. Detmer, a high school student, is highly intellectual and excels in filmmaking. He prefers the hobby as opposed to socializing. He is bullied a lot and is introverted. He finds solace in videotaping to break free of his verbally abusive father and caring for his ailing mother. He loves his mother, don’t get me wrong, but it wears down on him. Not a clone of Anakin, but there is a man talented beyond measure and is treated like a pariah. Anakin’s behavior was seen as odd to some Jedi at times and he feels a distrust that wears him down.
When Detmer is granted powers by some mysterious means, he has the chance to achieve wonders. His new friend Steve Montgomery (Creed’s Michael B. Jordan) and his cousin Matt Garetty ( S.W.A.T’s Russell) enjoy their new “gifts.”
The trio hilariously fools around with their powers pranking people, and in one instance, it gets out of hand. The accident is rectified miraculously. The trio has a pact to never tell anyone their powers, never use them on a living thing and never use it when they are angry. There is a Jedi Council vibe as the Jedi have a code to honor the role they have been given to safeguard themselves and others. Detmer is…….. somewhat for it. Sound familiar? There is an Obi-Wan demeanor from Garetty. Like Kenobi, he senses the struggle within Detmer and tries to lift his spirits, and wants the best for him. Detmer appreciates this but feels he doesn’t understand him. For those familiar with Revenge of the Sith, you can start to see where this is going.
The trio gets along pretty well as they form a strong bond as their powers grow. Montgomery isn’t a Mace Windu type per se, but he is well-known and beloved throughout the school. According to Samuel L Jackson, Mace Windu is well known as the second-best Jedi in the universe. Let’s see someone argue with that. Okay, Ahsoka Tano might be worthy of that title.
Montgomery isn’t mistrustful like Mace at first but befriends him. Windu begins to trust Anakin a lot more in The Clone Wars, but it dwindles. But Montgomery’s death is shocking, and devastating and sparks Detmer’s turn to the dark side.
Between Detmer’s mother’s untimely death and the accidental death of his friend Montgomery, Detmer is driven to madness. His unlimited power makes him feel what he calls “the apex predator.” He feels unlimited. He feels and believes he has unlimited power and nothing will stop him. The man you begin to see, the boy who hoped to break free of his hardships, is shattered. His humanity is stripped away. Palpatine seems to creep into him as Detmer exacts revenge on those who wronged him and the one person who can stop him.
Anakin is driven to believe that the only way to save his wife from dying because he lost his mother in Attack of the Clones is to forsake the Jedi Code and hunt his family down. He becomes infected by Palpatine’s dogmatic views. Detmer poisons himself. Garetty tries to get his cousin to see the reason but to no avail. There is a jaw-dropping battle between the former friends as Garetty is forced to kill his cousin. I should point out that my heart was throbbing to see the visceral nightmare unfolding as I did watch the events of the Mustafar battle. Also, like Anakin, Detmer feels overly confident in his abilities. Detmer is disfigured in a gas station explosion and thinks he can defeat the swarms of cops and SWAT advancing on him on the streets of Seattle. Garetty cleverly finds his high ground and well……
Detmer’s death affects Garetty greatly. He puts up a memorial for him in Tibet. It is where Andrew Detmer dreamed of going. He will always love him and knows that he is not a bad person in the end. Garetty has to go into exile and find out the truth about their powers as he revealed himself to the local news. Obi-Wan feels the weight of Anakin’s downfall. It is a shock to him and it will haunt him as his exile begins. We know that Kenobi will find closure one day in the form of a new hope. Director Josh Trank told a thrilling tale and yet there is no word on a sequel I hope that Garetty will find peace.
This film is the perfect allegory to Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith! We see how a man with so much potential to make change is warped by others or himself to the dark side. We want to root for Detmer to overcome the chains holding him down. But we cringe in heartache, as the metamorphosis takes hold. There is always more than meets the eye when it comes to so-called villains or wrongdoers. That is so prevalent in today’s world when it comes to mental health.
I love Star Wars and I love the prequels. I am grateful that the cast and crew of this film crafted an epic story and heart-wrenching and thought-provoking that emulates so many insightful ideas that are worth talking about years later. It’s food for thought we need now more than ever.