‘Allegiant’: Always Another Wall to Get Over

by Agent Alicia Glass (a.k.a. Pandora the Punctuation Horror)

We’ve been waiting for two whole movies to find out what’s beyond the surrounding wall of post-apocalyptic Chicago, and it’s finally here! The first film, Divergent, set the stage for the world in which post-devastation Chicago lives under the yoke of the factions that divide them from each other, and the legend of the mold-breaker Divergent haunts the city leaders. In the sequel, Insurgent, Tris Prior has been labeled a fabled Divergent and, as the factions break down in Chicago and people are chasing her for their own ends, prophecy comes to light about what’s really beyond the walls of the city. Now, here we are with a third film in which, immediately, Tris and crew are dead-set on scaling those walls and finding out what’s really in the great beyond, so let’s get into this!

The spoilers, they never end!

Those improbable Dauntless climbing rigs really are cool; I think you all should’ve kept them once you made it over the wall. And, yes, it’s a shame Tori (Maggie Q) only made it to the top of the wall before getting killed, but hey, it was farther than she ever got in her Divergent-helping life. Tris (Shailene Woodley) and Four (Theo James), along with the ever-insistent Peter (Miles Teller) and Tris’ forgiven brother Caleb (Ansel Elgort), are out there traversing the pink, pock-marked wasteland in despair while the bad guys from Chicago are trying to chase them down. Is this really all there is beyond the wall — say it’s not so — there has to be something else out here besides a bleeding sky and dead building skeletons and – wait, what’s that? It’s another wall.

But, hey, once you get past that wall and the unexpected super future-science soldiers show up, saving us from the bad guys who chased us all the way past Chicago’s wall, it’s not so bad. Time to get placed in a transport bubble, taken to the cleanest decontamination process you’ve ever had ever, and dosed with a heaping helping of future-truth from the guy in charge, Director Call-me-David (Jeff Daniels).

The present-future is still rather hampered by the past, where we humans did all manner of fuckery to ourselves with genetic modification and the like. This is not explained all that clearly; basically, what we’re left with is the revelation that Chicago itself is a giant petri dish experiment, struggling to bring about the natural selection of the Pure amongst the Damaged. Tris, being a Divergent, is, of course, the very first Pure to be brought out of Chicago, and David wants to take her to the nearby city of Providence, before the Council, to prove their experimentations actually worked and change the face of the world forever!

Whew! Meanwhile, Four has been assigned to the Dauntless-sneering futuristic military operations of the Bureau, and Caleb and Peter have been remanded to the amazing surveillance system, to keep tabs on the war brewing in the faction-less aftermath of Chicago. The experimental city is bent on tearing itself apart in the wake of former leader-villain Evelyn’s death, and the factions are re-forming as they prepare to go to war. Inevitably, what was Amity now announces its new name, Allegiant (there’s your fourth wall broken), and is determined to go to war with the other factionless, who are staging executions as part of the newly discovered freedom of what to do with POWs there in Chicago. Four got himself assigned to what ultimately turns out to be a raid — of children, no less — kidlings living out in the badlands to be stolen from their parents on David’s own orders and sent to be raised as brainwashed soldiers for the Bureau. Four tries to warn Tris that David is a bad man but Tris figures she’s got this and goes off in the flying bubble with David to Providence to state their case before the Council.

But it’s all happening more or less simultaneously – Chicago’s about to go to Armageddon-like war, Tris screwed David and the Council over pretty hardcore, Peter’s made his choice to help the bad guys of the Bureau – the metaphorical and real walls are caving in everywhere! David’s son Matthew, whom you might recognize as Bill Skarsgard, has decided to help Tris and company escape the Bureau however he might, and there is a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it easter egg when Tris uses his key card to get out and the card announces Matthew as Pure, as well. The orange forget-me-not gas is being let out everywhere, people are panicking, and only Tris and her friends can save the day! The movie draws to a somewhat climactic close with Tris and her pals, except the raging, kept-out Peter, of course, preparing to bring down yet another wall and stop the war brewing inside Chicago, and the present-day battles revving up on the outside!

I’ve long been a fan of the Divergent movie series, far over The Hunger Games or pretty much any other dystopian future films based on a YA book series. This latest installment film doesn’t disappoint. In both tone and scope, keeping the same faction and breakout elements that made the book series so enjoyable to begin with, but also introducing a breath of fresh air in the form of sci-fi elements to the over-arcing storyline.

All the kids we met in the first movie have grown immeasurably, some into heroes and some into misled villains, and, for the most part, we approve of what they’re doing without the yoke of adult regret. Not yet, anyway. As always, Tris Prior is made to stand out, both when she’s a Divergent among the beleaguered of Chicago and when she’s among the Damaged of the Bureau, where she wears all-white amongst the fighting-practice blacks of everyone else. At least she has a much better haircut this time. The many walls of the Divergent world are constantly coming up and being broken down, both metaphorically and literally, often, and the films remind the up-and-coming generations to break free of their own walls with grace and gusto!


Movie Review: ‘Fantastic Four’ 2015 Utterly Fails

by Agent Alicia Glass (a.k.a. Pandora the Punctuation Horror) 

Reed Richards and pals take on teleportation, superpowers, other dimensions and megalomaniacal hybrids in this new version of that beloved classic, Fantastic Four!

Holy crow, why? It’s taken for granted these days that the previous two Fantastic Four films had lots of issues and are generally considered sub-par, but that is no actual need for the movie-gods to try and remake the thing into this, which is actually being rated lesser than the likes of Batman and Robin. (That is an achievement, just not a good one.) So let us gird our superhero-loving loins and dive headlong into this.

So Reed as a kid is totally adorkable and, even at that age, wants to be able to teleport man from one place to another. This earns him one lonely friend, a solemn young man fascinated by Reed’s genius, named Ben Grimm. Reed’s homelife isn’t exactly satisfying either, so Reed (Miles Teller) and Ben (Jamie Bell) spend years in Reed’s garage, working on perfecting his teleport design. After an abortive science fair demonstration, next thing you know, Reed has some kind of internship at Baxter, along with Sue Storm (Kate Mara) and her brother Johnny (Michael B. Jordan), and Professor Storm’s protégé Victor Von Doom (Toby Kebbell), where they take Reed’s original working design and make it big enough to start trying to transport actual people to another dimension.

But then — hang on — they get the teleporter thingamie all up and working and then get informed oh no, it’s time to hand all our hard work off to NASA and fade into obscurity – because after all, no one remembers who built the Apollo 11: just who rode in it. The fellows fall to drinking, to drown their disappointment and Reed decides, “screw it, we’re going anyway,” calls up Ben and insists that Ben go with them, and off the young men in charge of changing our futures go to an alternate dimension! Oy vey. Sue happens to be at her work station at the time and is frantically trying to get the guys back, while elsewhere on some other planetoid or whatever, Reed’s all like we have to explore this new territory. Inevitably, bad stuff happens and they end up leaving Victor to his would-be fate before escaping, kind of, back to earth and being transformed by their newly gained powers in the ensuing explosions.

Whew! That’s the first half of the movie. How Did We Get Here: All the relevant background. Or is it? A great deal of the classic Fantastic Four storylines are either glossed over or ignored entirely. The known rivalry between Doom and Reed, Reed and Sue’s romance, Johnny’s rebel attitude, and yes, any real sign of life or individuality in Ben Grimm, these things are lacking and because there’s nothing new and different to fill those plot holes either, the characters (that we already know and love) come across as wooden and unfeeling. The movie is attempting to coast on name recognition and little else recognizable to the created FF world, which would be fine, except in instances like this you have to do something with that recognizable name to make it your own, and this FF simply doesn’t.

At this point, when we catch up to our would-be heroes, it’s been a year and they’ve all been training with their newfound powers. All except for Reed, who most people think ran away like a coward and is now hiding out somewhere. Ben’s been sent out on numerous military excursions, where he does the work of several squads of men and a few tanks besides, killing bad guys and serving his country and whatnot, nevermind how it makes poor Ben feel. Sue’s been practicing appearing solid and making shields and the like, and Johnny’s learned the flame-on, flame-off tricks, and is wanting to go into combat like Ben. And while the movie has a nice little montage showing the usage of various powers, they all still come across as just so young. Practically still teenager-like in many cases, which just doesn’t help anything.

Dr. Allen (did anyone else notice that this is actually Mister Blue? Figured I’d ask) is insistent on another jaunt to the alternate dimension, this time of course with the super-powered gang and some help, and — gasp and surprise – they discover, or get discovered by, a silvery-green being that wants to eat earth for this other alta-verse planet, calling himself simply of course, DOOM. (That ultimate DOOM pose Victor makes when he states his new name is one of the very few epic scenes of the entire movie.) People are chased around, explosions happen, and the fab four harry Doom back to the alterna-planet for the final showdown.

Wait. That’s it? Seriously? The entire climax of the movie was in the alterna-dimension, meaning the movie folks get away with tons of CGI for this ending, and damnit to hell, it shows in every frame. Not a single character, none of the Fan-Four (who are in the freaking title of the movie, after all), the lone pathetic bad guy, even the supposed upright and aboveboard adults who want to change humanity for the better, got the love and attention they truly deserved. All the actors tried, oh how they tried, to breathe life into a limp and practically-dead-already storyline, it isn’t their fault the film utterly failed. Fantastic Four 2015 is indeed a failure, but at least it serves as a poster child for why third-try remakes are a horrible idea.