Batman v Superman
March 24, 2016
The Divergent Series:
Allegiant (**) PG-13
After last year’s second installment in the Divergent series, Insurgent, anything would be a vast improvement. That’s worth mentioning so that the bar isn’t exactly set high for this review of the third part of the Divergent series, Allegiant. It’s a good thing, I guess, because the film is a lackluster affair, offering nothing even close to the more positive aspects of other film series aimed at the Young Adult crowd. Of course when I speak of the YA audience, we all know I’m basically referring to those who lined up to make The Hunger Games series of films and their like a roaring success. In terms of quality, however, I’ve got news for you, The Divergent series is never going to be anything closer to a sibling of The Hunger Games than a red headed stepchild.
You know you’re in trouble when a film series is so lackluster that you find yourself having to go back and reread the plot synopsis of the previous installment in order to prepare for the latest film.
Theo James & Shailene Woodley in ‘Allegiant’
In fact, the Divergent series is so forgettable that I couldn’t even recall my own review of the second film in the series, which appeared in the hallowed pages of FOCUS at about this time last year. Perhaps that will give you an idea of what to expect.
At any rate, there are basically two plot strands at work for most of the film, both involving actors with sizeable chops—Jeff Daniels and Naomi Watts—who get nothing of real interest to do amongst the proceedings. Still, the two story threads, at the very least, keeps things from being as deadly dull as I feared it might prove to be after rereading my words from last year. Shailine Woodley is back as Tris, the hero of the series who leads the pack of kids from the first two installments across the walls of Chicago where they’ve been trapped in a dystopian existence for most of the first two films. Once they manage to get across, curiosity kills the cat and they aren’t exactly pleased to discover what’s on the other side. This eventually boils down to the more simplistic plot points of having male protagonist, Four (Theo James) attempt to curtail his mother, Evelyn’s (Watts) plans of annihilating anyone who raises her ire while Tris is tasked with listening to endless explanations from the Jeff Daniels’ character as to the reasons behind the bleak situations the current world faces. Yes, it’s as boring as it sounds.
The special effects look cartoonish and artificial as well so I can’t even recommend it for that reason. I don’t expect them to have the problem corrected by the time the fourth and final installment of this series comes slogging onto movie theater screens next year at this time. As you can tell, I can hardly wait.
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (**)
If one were to begin cataloging the things wrong with Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, one need look no further than the title. For all of the hype about the ‘fight’ between the titanic comic book heroes, the actual battle doesn’t occur until 100 minutes into the film. When it does finally transpire it lasts approximately ten minutes and this is after nearly an hour of preamble leading to the dustup. I mention this because I’m all about truth in advertising and this is certainly a case of a cinematic hoax being perpetrated on the movie going public. You have been warned.
If readers of these hallowed pages recall, I was not kind to the 2013 predecessor to this film, Man of Steel. I felt that film had horribly directed and cartoonish action sequences that felt as if they would have been have been at home in any generic action picture directed by the likes of Michael Bay. Plus, the lead characters were poorly written and uninteresting.
Batman v Superman opens with ominous narration by the Bruce Wayne character, portrayed of course by Ben Affleck.
Ben Affleck as Bruce Wayne/Batman
During the credits sequence we are treated once again to the Batman origin story as the childhood Bruce witnesses his parents’ murder and vows to fight crime. Then we get to relive the last sequence from Man of Steel when Zod and Superman battled to the death and destroyed the city of Metropolis in the process. We learn that Bruce Wayne/Batman had a building that was destroyed during that battle and that many of his employees were casualties. He blames Superman for reasons that really aren’t logical but then logic isn’t a strong suit here. In fact there are a lot of questions that manage to go unanswered during this film’s unspooling but I digress.
The first half of the film has Batman plotting his revenge on Superman and this would have been fine had director Zach Snyder and his writing team focused on this plot strand. Instead they insist on getting sidetracked with other subplots that feel half-baked, most notably the one involving Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) which feels like it would have fared far better in another film. The film also throws in the character of Wonder Woman and Doomsday, among other things, for good measure. If it sounds like an overstuffed affair, you’re right on the money. It feels and looks like the first 150-minute super hero movie trailer instead of a film all its own.
I will say that the action sequences in Batman v Superman are a bit improved over those found in Man of Steel but that isn’t saying much. The film still looks cartoonish during its finale when Doomsday turns up and Superman attempts to save the day. It’s really saying something when a film that’s 38 years old—the 1978 version of Superman—has more convincing effects than a film made in 2016. That’s the case with this film, unfortunately.
Both films are playing in Hickory and the surrounding area.
Questions or comments? Write Adam at firstname.lastname@example.org.