March 14, 2016
I had rated the first two films in the Divergent series favorably. The first film "Divergent", I rated a 7/10, noting that it was a good film interpretation of a not-very-good book (MY REVIEW). The second film "Insurgent", I actually rated even higher at 8/10, calling it a satisfying and spectacular sequel (MY REVIEW). After watching this third film though, I'd advise fans not to expect too much.
Angry mobs rule in Chicago as the factions have dissipated after the death of Jeanine in the last film. Four,Tris and friends decide they do not like this system so they climbed out of the city walls to seek the truth on the other side. Outside, they were brought into an oasis in the irradiated landscape called the Bureau of Genetic Warfare, under the leadership of David. There, they learn about how their history. Tests reveal that only Tris possessed the genetic purity required to restore the social condition that existed before the purge. When he was assigned to the rough Fringe though, Four discovers that things outside were not as ideal as they thought they were.
The production design and visual effects were at par with the previous two films as they impressively created the new contrasting environments outside the wall -- the sterile Bureau and the barren Fringe. However, beyond these technical aspects, there was little else to love about this latest episode in the saga. I felt that the story was too overstuffed with political and sociological details that did not translate too well to the film medium. The storytelling felt slow and turgid. Events may be confusing if you miss out on something important mentioned in some boring conversation you tuned out of earlier.
Shailene Woodley remains to be the best actress among the young stars as Tris because of her intensity, but she certainly had her share of dull scenes. Theo James looked like he had but one stern expression on his face throughout as Four. Ansel Elgort appeared as ill-at-ease as ever as Tris' brother Caleb. Miles Teller had very embarrassing lines to deliver as the impertinent Peter.
Among the senior actors, Naomi Watts looked miscast as Evelyn, leader of the Factionless. Her son Four even looked to be the same age as her. Octavia Spencer looked unconvincing as the leader of the Allegiants who broke away from Evelyn's leadership. Jeff Daniels gave a dignified performance as David, though the story arc of his character is simply overdone and too familiar already.
Overall, I felt that this film simply could not tell its overblown story effectively nor engagingly. The issues about the genetically "pure" vs. "damaged" were too vague or nonsensical to hold one's interest in the unfolding events. Just when you thought the whole story had come to an end with this episode, David ominously appears in the final frame to open the doors for the next film in the series entitled "Ascendant" coming to cinemas by June next year. Even now though, I feel this story had already gone on too long. 5/10.