We could just blame The Hunger Games for all this, right?
In this third installment of The Divergent Series, Beatrice “Tris” Prior (Shailene Woodley) must escape with Four (Theo James) to reach beyond the wall that encloses the once and future Chicago — where’s Buck Rogers when you need him? Rejecting the idea that confronting the experimenters in charge of the experiment is too dangerous for the mice in the cage, the gang discovers all their infighting isn’t only pointless, much of it has been orchestrated from the outside — and they’re being watched. As their perfect specimen, Tris is granted exclusive access to David (Jeff Daniels) to answer questions and be questioned in return, but everything that makes her special is also what makes her dangerous. Faster than you can say “flashy thingie,” Tris must save Chicago at great personal risk — again — by putting herself in the line of fire… and setting up (yawn) another sequel.
The trailers remind us that Shailene Woodley is cute and looks good fighting through CGI environment, and don’t forget there were two previous movies you really need to see and/or buy. Oooh, is she really going to be kind of naked walking down a dark shadowy hallway? Buy a ticket now! Please disregard Jeff Daniels playing another role as the director (of something or another) who either can’t be trusted or incompetently failed his way to the top; he’s really cool this time and in no way the new bad guy… or is he? Did we mention Theo James is still hawt?
One can understand an author and their readers being fans of a book series, but this is one of those dystopian fantasies that stacks the deck with vague concepts that, under scrutiny, utterly fails. The Hunger Games held everything together until the end, but Maze Runner ran out of money and ideas halfway through the sequel — The Mortal Instruments was banished to television after one film. The original Divergent film wasn’t exactly passable, but the sequel Insurgent introduced a clear McGuffin designed to create a new danger to overcome instead of dealing with issue at hand. Like all of these movies, there feels like a heavy hand — deus ex authortica — visibly pulling the strings for their main character, The Chosen One: “Everybody thinks I’m sexy but me, a sorta-shy helpless klutz except when using over seventy forms of hand-to-hand combat I’ve mastered; I have to choose between two beautiful lovers who fuss over me… plus I’m a bionically enhanced psychic ninja werewolf.”
Okay, somewhere in here is a life lesson about doing the best you can with what you’re given, but there’s always someone who thinks we can improve upon that… but not upon you. Intelligent folks don’t have to spend much time on Facebook to figure out that people want to keep to their own little groups of friends who tell one another how much better they are than Group X, and the only way to combat it is exposure therapy: a glimpse of how the other half or quarter or hundredth live. Fortunately, there will always be those who’ll never see that — “There are always men like you.” — and get to be the bad guys in these stories, plus we all know that one-dimensional characters who follow the baddies never change… where were we? Oh, yeah.
The Divergent Series: Allegiant is okay for all ages who want something pretty to look at but no reason to use their brain except for a dopamine surge over tasty concession stand snacks.
1 Skull Recommendation Out of Four