CGB Review of The Divergent Series: Allegiant (2016)

I’ll give the movie this: It did give me an opportunity to take a nice power nap.
I don’t think that’s a good sign.

This is my review of (yawns) The Divergent Series: Allegiant.

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So just like Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, as well as any film made by David O. Russell, this movie is hard to summarize.  Alas, I shall do my best.  Here goes nothing!

Beatrice “Tris” Prior (Shailene Woodley), her boyfriend Four/Tobias Eaton and their allies venture beyond the wall that barricades dystopian Chicago.   After wandering the barren wasteland that looks eerily similar to the Scorch in Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials, Tris and company are picked up by the–hold on, I’ve already forgotten what it’s called–(looks up the movie online)–the Bureau of Genetic Welfare.  Tris meets David (Jeff Daniels), the Bureau’s director and the two form a camaraderie.  David tells Tris that there are two groups of people: The genetically Pure and the genetically Damaged; Tris is the ONLY one who is genetically Pure and David wants to discover “what made her” so that they can use that information to heal the genes of the Damaged.  However, things go awry when Tris discovers that all is not as it seems at the Bureau and we’re off to the races.

(Rubs forehead) Clearly neither Divergent author Veronica Roth nor the filmmakers understand how DNA works.

The Hits
When compared to the last film in the Divergent franchise, Insurgent, Allegiant is slightly better.  The first five minutes of the movie are interesting and show some promise.
I do like the interactions between Tris and David.   Like Mark Rylance in Bridge of Spies, Jeff Daniels is the kind of guy who could pull off a Keyser Soze-esque villain.  He has an eerily calm and collective demeanor that is both comforting and unsettling; that guy who would offer you a cup of hot chocolate and then smile coldly as he watches you die from the rat poison that was in the drink.
Miles Teller is the only person having any kind of fun with this flick.  He steals every scene he is in and livens the uber-seriousness of the premise.  The movie wants us to hate him, but I’d much rather have him be our main protagonist.  Lovable jerks make for far more interesting characters.

The Misses
The CGI is laughable, particularly the plasma bubbles that the characters are put in when they are found by the Bureau.  The action sequences are filmed in shaky cam, so it’s hard to make out what is happening.
In Insurgent, Tris was kind of despicable, but at the very least I could describe her as something.  Here, she is as wooden and bland as the scorched terrain she traverses.  Shailene Woodley looks bored throughout the majority of the film.   It’s a pretty bad sign when I would much rather watch her be a toxic girlfriend to Four/Tobias than an uninteresting Messianic archetype.
Have you ever been in a conversation with someone who starts a sentence, but instead of finishing what they were saying, they move on to talking about something else?  That is what this movie is like.  Allegiant is a hodgepodge of ideas that would be engaging if they were thought out all the way through.  Even the rapport between Tris and David feels incomplete.  There was an idea for a deceptive relationship, but it does nothing to reveal the psychology of the two characters.  Then again, idea establishment has always been a problem in both the books and the films, so if it’s still a problem at this point in the franchise, chances are it’s too late to fix it for the next (and hopefully) final film in the series, Ascendant, which comes out next year.
I wasn’t kidding when I said that this movie allowed me to take a brief power nap.  Just like Bridge of Spies, Allegiant is also really, really boring.  Because the characters are underdeveloped and the world-building is sub par, there is nothing is connect to, nothing to get invested in.  Allegiant doesn’t work as a character-driven story because the main character (Tris) barely makes the cut as a two-dimensional person, let alone a three-dimensional one.  It also fails as a plot driven story because the story is riddled with half-baked concepts that never come full circle.

Even though it is somewhat better than the incoherent Insurgent, Allegiant is yet another sign that the Divergent film series is a flawed and broken franchise based off an equally dull book trilogy.  Sorry, Tris, but you’re no Katniss Everdeen.

Saint Aloysius Gonzaga, pray for us.

CGB Review of Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials

This movie made me hate flashlights.  Why?  Because three times, the characters are in chase sequences that involve them running through dark rooms while swinging around their flashlights with reckless abandon.

This is my review of Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials!

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Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials is the sequel to last year’s The Maze Runner.  In this installment, Thomas and his friends, Newt, Minho, Teresa, Frypan, and Winston have survived living in a large maze while fending off, for lack of a better term, mechanicle beetles called Grievers.  Now they have escaped the maze and are staying in a facility run by Mr. Janson.  They are hiding from the organization WCKD (pronounced as “Wicked” like the Broadway play), but when Thomas and company discover that Janson and his cohorts have, well, wicked intentions in store, they flee the facility and travel across a scorched wasteland that was once the U.S of A.

The Hits
Everything good about the movie is in the first act.  The conflict is well-established and the chase sequence is action-packed and perfectly paced.  The facility develops its own character as a cold, unsettling sanctuary with hidden secrets abound.
Dylan O’Brien plays Thomas and makes the character a vast improvement from the first film, as well as the book.  He doesn’t have a complex arch, but he is curious, fast-thinking, and as someone who is prone to anxiety attacks, I can tell that Thomas may suffer from high anxiety.  O’Brien does what he can with the chracter he’s working with, and for the most part, he does a passable job.
I’ve always wanted to see characters actually walk into destroyed post-apolcalyptic skyscrapers and in this movie, they do!  There’s one pretty cool sequence in the second act where Thomas and Brenda (Rosa Salazar) have to outrun the infected CGI zombie people in a collapsed skyscraper.
Honestly, if this was a short film on YouTube, it would be amazing.  Just use the entire first act and then use the skyscraper fight as the climax, and you’ve got yourself a YouTube short film that gets a bajillion views.

The Misses
This movie gets really repetitive really fast.  In my intro, I mentioned how this movie made me hate flashlights.  There are far too many scenes of characters running in dark places while wildly swinging their flashlights.  A lot of scenes play out the exact same way: Thomas and the gang go to some rusty place, they turn the lights and CGI zombie brouhaha chase after them.  Rinse and repeat.  Even the Hunger Games have variety in their scene set-ups!
This movie has a major development problem, as in nothing gets a chance to develop.  The movie attempts character development with Thomas, but because the script is so hellbent on keeping the story as mysterious as possible, very little is revealed about him or the circumstances surrounding him and his friends.  The wasteland, aka the scorch, has no sense of place; it’s just a lot of sand and heat that never feels threatening.  Actually, now that I think about it, they don’t spend a whole lot of time outside in the scorch until the third act.  They just run across it from one broken-down building to the next.
I’m getting real sick and tired of the “good kids and shady adults” arch that contaminate these young adult movie adaptations, and this movie definitely falls into the trap.  I’m all for the “kid trusts adults, but then sees their imperfections” narrative, but when EVERY. SINGLE. ADULT character is a Bond-villain wannabe and there’s no strong adult mentor on the good side, it gets pretentious as all heck.
This movie was doing just fine when it was Thomas & company versus WCKD and even the resistance run by Jorge and Brenda was all right, but then comes this Right Arm group comes in and now you have WCKD, the Right Arm, the kids and all the while, I’m just so worn out from all the drama with underdeveloped characters who I really don’t care about that I’m just waiting for the credits to roll.

Overall, Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials slogs more than sprints.  The action will definitely keep your attention, but the forgettable characters makes rooting for anyone a challenge.