Mashups

The Divergent Series Super-Review

With the release of the third film in the Divergent series, “Allegiant”, I watched the previous two films, “Divergent” and “Insurgent”, for the first time in order to get some context. Below are my reviews of all 3 films in the series so far. If you would like to go straight ahead to my review of “Allegiant”, click here.

Divergent

Tris Prior (Shailene Woodley) lives in a futuristic world in which society is divided into five factions. As each person enters adulthood, he or she must choose a faction and commit to it for life. Tris chooses Dauntless, those who pursue bravery above all else. However, her initiation leads to the discovery that she is a Divergent and will never be able to fit into just one faction. Warned that she must conceal her status, Tris uncovers a looming war which threatens everyone she loves.

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There are a lot of tween-based dystopian adventure films and series out there and this one is not the first and probably won’t be the last (and technically wasn’t). When “The Hunger Games” was released back in 2012, it set the tone of what a tween dystopian film should look like and since then it seems like not many other film have diverged (pun intended) from this formula. This film unfortunately status quo.

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For those who don’t know the story Beatrice “Tris” Prior (Woodley) in a world where society is divided into five factions: Abnegation, Erudite, Dauntless, Amity, and Candor (more info here). Once one reaches adulthood, they must choose a faction and commit to it for the rest of their life. Tris decides to choose Dauntless but when her initiation leads her to discover that she is a Divergent, where she will never be able to fit into just one faction, she must conceal her status from everyone she knows and loves.

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Maybe this is just because I haven’t read any of the books but I problem I’ve had with these dystopian films is that they don’t really explain how their respective worlds came to be. On the other hand, a lot of these film series reveal more as the series goes on and I’m thinking that this is the case here. I can’t really stand behind the whole faction premise so far but maybe I’ll be proven wrong.

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This film is very derivative of The Hunger Games (as most series afterwards were) and I can go on and on about that but I think most of you already know that by now. Like that film, it started off right with the main plot as we go straight into Tris and her brother Caleb’s (Ansel Elgort) initiations into new factions. The moment when we learned Tris was Divergent did not have that much of an impact with me as I thought the film did not do a good job at explaining what it meant. The film also chose to solely focus on Tris which is okay since she is the star of the film but I would have liked to have seen more.

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I thought the pacing of the film was a little off as I found it spent too much time with Tris learning how to be a Dauntless and not enough with the film’s actual plot. I feel like it spent too much time establishing Tris as a character while also giving her friends and placing her in a romantic relationship with a man named Four (Theo James). All of that was okay but it felt like it wasn’t leading to anything. Nothing really happen until the last third of the film when the film caught up to the plot.

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The plot was rather predictable as everything we thought would happen happened but we were just waiting until it all led to something and it eventually did. Things were not as they seemed so Tris and Four must band together against Jeanine Matthews (Kate Winslet), leader of the Erudites. I don’t want to give anything away here but there are plenty of moments that are obvious set-up for future movies so there really wasn’t any tension here.

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The acting was okay here but this film isn’t about the acting but more about the likeability of the characters and they were likeable. I found Tris to be very relatable in that we both had no idea what was going on at times.

Overall, this was still a decent start to the franchise but a strange premise and a loose plot bring it down for me.

Score: 5.5/10

Insurgent

Now on the run from Jeanine Matthews (Kate Winslet) and the rest of the power-hungry Erudites, Tris Prior (Shailene Woodley) and Four (Theo James) search for allies and answers in the ruins of Chicago. They must find out what Tris’ family sacrificed their lives to protect and why the Erudites will do anything to stop them. Side by side, Tris and Four face one seemingly insurmountable challenge after another, as they unravel the secrets of the past and, ultimately, the future of their world.

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It was blatantly obvious after watching the first film that there would be a second and alas, here we are. I was hoping that after that this film would respond to the events which occurred at the end of Divergent and for the most part, it did. I thought the first film kind of forgot about the plot until roughly 2/3 through. This one stayed with it from beginning to end which I liked more.

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For those who don’t know the story here, Tris Prior (Woodley) and Four (James) are on the run from the Erudites and their leader Jeanine Matthews (Winslet). They must search for allies and answers amongst the ruins of Chicago. Tris and Four must discover what Tris’ family sacrificed their lives to protect while facing a series of insurmountable challenges while uncovering secrets of their past and save the world.

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What I prefered about this film is that, to me,  it was clearer as to where it was going. The first film spent a lot of time on character development and failed to balance it with the plot while this one was the opposite. I’m not saying the story was better (I still can’t stand behind the whole faction thing), I’m just saying that it made more sense to me compared to the first film because this one did not make much sense either since this film is riddled with logic issues. I have a feeling that most will probably not question this as I do not fall in this film’s demographic. Fans of the book and/or the first film will have seen this regardless.

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This film did not have as much action as the previous film but I still thought it was well done. There wasn’t much going on here other than Tris and Four running away from things. The majority of the action (and probably the budget) appeared mostly in simulations later on which were silly to watch and obviously computer generated.

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What I did like about the film was that it gave us a glimpse of the other factions which we didn’t get to see in the previous film thus introducing new characters to the story. They did not give these characters much to do here which probably means expanded roles in either of the next two films which was fine.

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The relationship between Tris and Four continued to develop here. I’ve never thought that Woodley and James had the best chemistry but they were okay here. Woodley has been the better of the two thus far but Tris’ lack of progression was a little annoying. Ansel Elgort’s Caleb was okay here but his character’s progression just felt weird. Winslet was okay as the villain Matthews  but I just couldn’t help but feel that them and the rest of the cast could have been used a lot better and were let down by either the script or the direction.

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Overall, this is a better entry story-wise and is decently acted but it still isn’t quite where it needs to be.

Score: 6/10

Allegiant

Tris (Shailene Woodley) escapes with Four (Theo James) to journey beyond the wall that encloses Chicago. For the first time, they leave the only city and family they have ever known to find a peaceful solution. Once outside, they learn shocking new truths that render old discoveries meaningless. As the ruthless battle threatens humanity, Tris and Four quickly decide who to trust to survive. Tris must ultimately make difficult choices about courage, allegiance, sacrifice and love.

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If you thought it was over after this one, then you thought wrong as this is just the first part of a two-part film with the second being Ascendant, releasing in June (not March) 2017. This is commonplace now with these types of films based on books, the last one is split into two films purely for financial purposes. The problem I’ve always had with this approach is that it always seems to hurt the first film story-wise as the first film is almost forgotten for the sake of setting up the events of the second film. This continues to be the case here.

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For those who don’t know the story here, Tris (Woodley) and Four (James) escape beyond the wall encompassing Chicago to try to find a solution to the conflict at home. They soon learn the truth about the outside world and how there’s came to be. I don’t want to give too much away here but if you read the book, then you already know everything but the city of Chicago was an experiment being run by the Bureau of Genetic Warfare led by a man named David (Jeff Daniels). In order to regain order in Chicago, David plans to reintroduce the faction system.

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The plot here was very derivative of the first two films as it did not bring much new to the table here, simply rehashing elements of those films. Also, just like other YA book films, their plots are usually driven by characters making dumb decisions. This was the case in the first two films and this was also the case here. But when you think about it, if characters made smart decisions then there would be no film (or films). While this film had a little more focus on the outside, I would have liked to have seen more of the inside.

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I will say that it was interesting to finally learn what was behind the wall and get some answers about the world (again, I haven’t read the books). It was about time since other YA film series have gotten behind their respective real (or metaphorical) walls a lot sooner. What we saw and the answers we got I found underwhelming, they brought up some big ideas but spent little time developing them which is probably explained by the film splitting. I also did find myself bored at times.

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The action was probably at an all time low here but what we got was well done with James’ Four handling the bulk of it, featuring good choreography and was well shot. This series has never been known for special effects and this is no different here as lot of it was mediocre at best and was full of obvious “not real” moments.

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Just like the special effects, the series has never been known for acting and this is also not the case here. I’ve always thought the acting throughout the series has been okay and this continues here with everyone being okay despite the dialogue and the direction. I will commend Daniels here as I quite enjoyed his performance and I find him to be an upgrade at villain over Kate Winslet’s Jeanine Matthews. It was just a shame that the people outside the walls weren’t quite developed enough for me.

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Overall, this is another decent film in the franchise but is plagued by part 1 syndrome in that it focuses too much in setting up part 2 than focusing on itself.

Score: 6/10

Series Average: 5.83/10

If you liked this, please read my other reviews here and don’t forget to follow me on Twitter and like me on Facebook.

 

 

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