Before you start commenting on this review, I’d like to disclose that dystopian novels (which then get turned into movies) are my guilty pleasure and have been ever since I read The Giver and Fahrenheit 451 in seventh grade (Year 6), so either click on one of George’s reviews or forever hold your peace.
The third installation of the Divergent Series — based on Veronica Roth’s sci-fi dystopian novel — made its debut last Friday and within hours got mercilessly slashed by just about every major critic in the western world, but not by this one. I’ll be the first to admit the movie has some downsides, I mean Shailene Woodley does have a cringe-worthy slowmo technique, the intimate kissing scenes are way too long and there are a couple of non sequitur plot holes here and there that were originally patched up in the books, but I do have to credit the uncanny political subtext behind the story, which is portrayed clearly in the film and that, dare I say it, saves the film.
Tris (Woodley) is the only “pure”(not damaged by the genetic modifications) person in Chicago and throughout the trilogy is constantly being either beaten up or tinkered with for something she has no control over, e.g. being who she is. The new leader of the city, Evelyn Johnson-Eaton (Naomi Watts) — who originally fought against dictator Jeanine Matthews (Kate Winslet) — finds herself becoming the new Jeanine in her ascent to power, executing anyone who stands in her way; communities of people deemed unfit and uncivilized get “saved” by the more advanced societies and then enslaved in them, and so on and so forth. The political innuendos are many and they’re not subtle, clearly Roth, and now, director Robert Schwentke, had something much larger in mind than just the “usual” sci-fi dystopian novel, as the subtext seems to clearly reference real-time events and realities, minus the super-sonic flying machinery and impossibly (for now) advanced technologies. In one of the execution scenes at the beginning, when Jeanine’s followers are being trialled (and by trialled Evelyn meant shot), the first one is asked by ex-Candor leader (via a truth-serum) if he enjoyed killing for Jeanine and his reply was, “People are like sheep, they need a leader and if they don’t follow that leader, they’ll get slaughtered.”
Besides the fact that he clearly doesn’t understand the job of a shepherd, how many times have people been harmed for not having done what they are told, even if that very thing is wrong? I’d go so far as to say the series actually makes some pretty eye-opening references, even if the third installation was quite slow paced.
If you’re not a utopian/dystopian junkie, maybe it’s best to save your five quid for something else, but if you start from Divergent (2011) and make your way through, it may just surprise you. Or not. If anything, watch it because Miles Teller is in it and has a great part and, to absolutely no one’s surprise, provides the comedy relief throughout.
All in all, don’t hold you breath because the final installation, Part II (which got renamed The Divergent Series: Ascendant) isn’t coming up until June of 2017, even if director Shwentke dropped out. I guess all those negative Rotten Tomatoes ratings got to him — don’t worry Shwentke, Sussex Sour Apples’ got your back.