Tag: theo james

The Divergent Series: Allegiant


The Divergent Series: Allegiant (2016)
★ / ★★★★

This is yet another movie where it goes to show that the filmmakers can have access to all the special and visual effects in the world but if there is a lack of imagination, strong ideas, or even a smidgen of common sense in the writing to create a convincing and involving story, the project is highly likely to go down in flames. “Allegiant,” the third picture in the increasingly soporific “Divergent” series based on Veronica Roth’s novels, is the weakest entry yet.

The picture makes no effort to fix the many problems that plagued its predecessors. It is merely a boring, long-winded march to a predictable semi-conclusion. I am horrified there is another installment because it gives the impression that this universe has nothing left to offer in terms of intrigue or entertainment. Young adults, who are the main audience of the film, deserve much better than this balderdash masquerading as a teen dystopian future.

All the more apparent here is that the main character, Tris (Shailene Woodley), is far from a fascinating heroine. It is possible that the source material is to blame, but the screenwriters—Noah Oppenheim, Adam Cooper, and Bill Collage—have the duty of making her multidimensional, someone who we can stick by and root for. Instead, Tris is as bland as tap water; in the previous films, she is supposed to be special because she is a Divergent and in here, it is because she is “genetically pure.” The writers fail to turn these labels into more than just words or concepts. Why not show us exactly why Tris is a standout among the rest instead of constantly pelleting us with such nonsensical branding?

I felt bad for Woodley because she is a good performer, especially in more dramatic roles. Here, we see a glimmer of effort being put into her part, notably scenes where she must connect with another character. She has such expressive eyes and her whole being glows.

However, notice how the exchanges barely last more than thirty seconds. Observe how the language is so simplistic, there is nothing to digest. These are not how real people speak to one another in real life—let alone in a situation where you are fighting for the survival of your world. In actual, day-to-day conversations, there are emotions, implications, suggestions, and the like. There is conflict in just talking with one another. Here, the dialogue is so passive, the actors could have been replaced by robots and it wouldn’t have made a difference.

I choose not to provide a summary of the plot because it does not seem to matter at all. I would like to give the writers and filmmakers a pop quiz in order to see if they themselves know what’s going on with the story. I question their understanding because what should be central strands are treated as secondary, tertiary details are introduced somewhat for about fifteen to twenty minutes and then forgotten completely. Meaningful character development is thrown out the window altogether. It’s a disaster.

Seemingly directed by Robert Schwentke without using his eyes—or brain—“The Divergent Series: Allegiant” is an exercise designed to determine who in the audience is willing to endure the most torture. I sat through it only because I have a rule about watching the entire picture prior to writing a review. If you cherish your time, good mood, and energy, steer far, far away.

Divergent


Divergent (2014)
★★ / ★★★★

Dystopian Chicago is divided into five factions: Erudite for the intelligent, Amity for the kind, Candor for the honest, Dauntless for the brave, and Abnegation for the selfless—each believed to serve a specific function to maintain peace and order. Young men and women take an aptitude test and the result of the exam gives each participant an idea which faction he or should should join. Typically, a person falls under one category. However, in rare of circumstances, a person may be considered a good for fit more one than one group. These are called Divergent and they are considered a threat to society.

Based on the novel by Veronica Ruth, though “Divergent” offers an interesting premise, it is a problematic picture largely because its exposition is expanded to such an extent that it becomes increasingly clear that it is a movie that never stops beginning. When it does hit its stride eventually, some time after the hour-and-fifteen-minute mark, the film is halfway over and supporting characters that are potentially worth knowing remain on the side. As a result, the material ends up offering very little substance—especially to those, like myself, who have never read the series.

Suspense is absent for the most part. Let us take a look at Gary Ross’ “The Hunger Games.” There is a sense of build-up with scenes that lead up the The Reaping. Silence is utilized in such a way as to highlight the oppression endured by the protagonist’s long suffering district. Here, because the screenplay by Evan Daugherty and Vanessa Taylor fails to place heavy importance in what is about to transpire—the very thing that will propel the story forward, it feels as though taking the personality-based exam is a piece of cake. Although Tris (Shailene Woodley) is nervous about taking the test, I found myself watching rather passively rather than in anticipation.

Deaths occur later in the picture—which is now expected with films of this type. I wanted to know more about the friends Beatrice has grown close to in her chosen faction (Zoë Kravitz, Ben Lloyd-Hughes, Christian Madsen). What about her brother, Caleb (Ansel Elgort), who joined Erudite, a group that wishes to gain power and control over the city? What are his experiences like at that camp? And when Beatrice and Caleb left home, how did their parents (Ashley Judd, Tony Goldwyn) cope? These are not deep information about the characters but they are necessary for context.

Instead, we get an abundance of scenes surrounding so-called training: jumping off trains, hand-to-hand combat, target practice… Relatively boring junk, not to mention unconvincing. In my eyes, two of the “leaders,” Four (Theo James) and Eric (Jai Courtney), do not actually lead. They do a lot of standing and looking stern. They are not shown helping the recruits on how to hone their techniques and improve their performances. An exemption is when Four comes up to Beatrice and gives tips—but it is only because he is romantically interested in her. The charade is superficial, obvious, and cheesy—only there to appeal to people whose definition of sexy is outward gestures.

I enjoyed Kate Winslet’s presence as the Erudite leader. She elevates the material because even when her character is not saying a thing, we can tell immediately that she is someone of importance. It is in the way she stands, the way she walks, the way she looks—or not look—at others who she considers to be below her. However, Winslet does not have very many scenes. She did not have a chance to turn her cold character into someone with more substance, a villain with more to her than verbalizing her goal to maintain “peace.”

Directed by Neil Burger, “Divergent” is a mildly entertaining movie that offers standard action behind a premise that should have had more depth. If one were looking for shootouts at the end, one would likely be satiated. If one were looking for romantic glances and flirtations, one would likely walk away swooning. But I am not looking for standard; I am looking for something that attempts to set the bar—or at least meet it. In this respect, the film is a major disappointment.

Underworld: Awakening


Underworld: Awakening (2012)
★★ / ★★★★

After humans discovered that vampires and werewolves walked the planet, they performed a mass cleansing of the abnormal. Selene (Kate Beckinsale), a vampire, was eventually captured by a drug company called Antigen, led by Dr. Lane (Stephen Rea), and experimented on her, while frozen, for twelve years. Their goal was to create a drug that could help authorities recognize the so-called infected. When she woke up, vampires and werewolves, though still at war with each other, were forced underground and had depleted in number. Directed by Måns Mårlind and Björn Stein, the way in which “Underworld: Awakening” began felt cheap. The narration and synopsis of what happened in its predecessors felt completely unnecessary. Instead of a movie, I felt like I was watching an introduction to a video game: you want to fast forward but it’s part of the whole package so you sit there and take it. My problem was it didn’t really try to make me care about the war among humans, lycans, and vampires. However, I found the action sequences very entertaining because they had a sense of humor. When Selene tried to escape from Antigen, she had complete disregard for the humans. She shot limbs, sliced throats, and cracked bones like it was nobody’s business. She didn’t crack a smile. I didn’t even notice her blink. What mattered was getting out and finding her boyfriend, Michael (Scott Speedman), the only vampire-werewolf hybrid in existence. Or so she thought. Eventually, Selene found a girl named Eve (India Eisley) who was supposedly her daughter. I began to have more questions and not all of them were answered or even addressed. For instance, though it was obvious, through snarling and looking morose, that the vampire and werewolf communities were against commingling of race, if Selene finally found Michael, what would it mean for the two camps? Did the plan involve Selene and Michael making a lot of babies so that, when the time came, werewolves and vampires would have no choice but to accept one another? Or did the plan simply involve the couple and their daughter, once reunited, hiding from the world and living happily ever after? Admittedly, I gave up trying to figure out motivations which wasn’t difficult to do when action scenes were thrown at the audience’s faces every ten minutes or so. I was very entertained by the scene where Selene, David (Theo James), a vampire with great bone structure, and Eve drove a van in the middle of a city while trying to escape from three lower-level–but still scary–werewolves. I found it amusing that although the werewolves jumped on top of one vehicle to another, the human drivers didn’t seem at all perturbed that a hairy beast was on the roof and, at times, blocked their vision. One would expect more car crashes considering how stupid people really are while behind the wheel. I was also tickled by watching Selene being thrown like a rag doll by a giant werewolf (Kris Holden-Reid). “Underworld: Awakening” was like eating popcorn: it’s salty, buttery goodness on the outside but the inside is all air. That doesn’t make it any less delicious.