Release Date: March 18, 2016
Director: Robert Schwentke
Writer: Noah Oppenheim, Adam Cooper, Bill Collage, Veronica Roth (novel)
Cast: Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Naomi Watts, Octavia Spencer, Jeff Daniels, Zoe Kravitz, Ansel Elgort, Miles Teller, Keiynan Lonsdale, Daniel Dae Kim, Maggie Q, Bill Skarsgard, Jonny Weston, Nadia Hilker, Andy Bean, Ray Stevenson, Mekhi Phifer, Joseph David-Jones, Ashley Judd, Josh Duvendeck, Xander Berkeley, Parisa Johnston
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 121 minutes
Production Company: Lionsgate, Red Wagon Entertainment, Summit Entertainment
Genre: Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi
When it comes to the films in the Divergent series, I should be running to the theater just to catch a glimpse. They’re visually stunning, contain epic adventures, and have sprinkles of action in all the right places. On the outside they look like a fun rollercoaster, or at least that’s how the studio sold them. Unfortunately, they are more comparable to a McDonald’s play land than what’s promised in the trailers. I wasn’t a fan of the first two films at all. Frustration filled my senses instead of having heart pounding excitement in my veins. Instead of any real effort being thrown in, the characters appeared to be in no more than a shiny dress rehearsal. That’s mostly from the wooden characters, or over exaggerated ones (Miles Teller). Not to say that the third chapter, Allegiant, is a masterpiece, but it’s a huge improvement from what came before. The plot raises the stakes, has true value, and has a strong core at its center. I was nearly a converted fan, until some of the same mistakes from the past films circled back around.
It was probably done on purpose, but a downside to the Divergent series is that the films don’t stand alone. If you didn’t see the first two it’s strongly suggested that you do before taking a swing at this third installment. With only seeing them once in theaters, it took me a while to clock back in. What helped was the miraculous score conducted by Joseph Trapanese. This is easily the highlight of the film, and as characters are making their transition to the next important puzzle, the score helps them along their way. It gives new definition to adventure. I felt pumped up and ready to go. Looking at his filmography, Trapanese is a true talent, composing scores for a good number of films that I enjoyed. His involvement had me hooked the whole first hour.
The first hour felt like a whole new behind the scenes team was involved. I was surprised when I learned that director Robert Schwentke had returned. He didn’t do it for me his first time up to bat with the second installment, but the action scenes he shot this go around were pretty intense. The scaling and all the shots he crafted were beautiful. Since the story expanded, it really felt like a completely different world than what’s commonly known. As the characters’ eyes are bulging out with excitement, so are yours as an audience member. Seeing characters on the run in mortal danger really brought forth a necessary intensity to the surface that showed the importance of their mission.
As a whole you want the characters to succeed as a group, but separately there isn’t anyone worth mentioning that stole the show. Even Tris (Shailene Woodley) as the titular character didn’t bring anything special. From what feels out of nowhere, she sparks up a romance that’s hard to remember from the last film. As happy as events appear shortly before, things soon go down the wrong path. Characters shouldn’t be stopping to make out in the middle of an enemy base with their oppressors closing in around the corner. There’s no time for such behavior, and it takes the fun out of what came previously. There are so many instances like this that it’s hard to categorize.
For just a while, as the world expands, you may feel as if you’ve seen the same thing before. This time on a larger scale. Though shortly after the clutter of the plot washes away, you’re able to see the big picture of what really matters. I feel the best line of the film goes to Tris, when she addresses a council about fully understanding human behavior. It’s a hard subject to master, and the underlying themes these films presented in regard to that notion spoke volumes relating to the real world. The message behind this scene is accepting people for who they are no matter how different they are. For such a powerful message, it was soon after blown away by multiple plot devices. It’s impossible to conclude if it all makes sense. It doesn’t appear to, and the film ends without tying up all the loose ends. Where one party had a clear endgame, the other’s was as clear as smoke.
The first half of the film had so much promise and focused on a certain plot device, which was to survive. Run and don’t get caught while exploring a new world. Then all of a sudden it jumps to an even more advanced futuristic setting; which in its entirety seems pointless. With the type of motivation these characters had, it’s hard to figure out why some actions weren’t completed long before. This is just another problem that the film seems to ignore. Peter’s (Miles Teller) character is the ball and chain of the film. His role is horrific! Teller is a great actor, but his talents are wasted on someone so blatantly immature and selfish. It’s a mystery why he’s still around. Other than his involvement, the film had so much potential to be great. It started out fantastic and ended well, but the 2nd act left me in the cold.