Starring: Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Jeff Daniels, Ansel Elgort, Miles Teller, Naomi Watts, Octavia Spencer
Rated PG-13 for Intense Violence and Action, Thematic Elements and Some Partial Nudity
Of all the tween franchises to come out after "Harry Potter," the "Divergent" series at least has the virtue of being entertaining. The first two weren't masterpieces and neither is this installment (as has become the norm these days, the final book has been split into two parts), but it's good enough that I recommend seeing it if you liked the others. It doesn't sufficiently differ from the ground laid out in the first two films, but it really doesn't matter.
Janine (Kate Winslet) is dead. The government leader who used science and lies to overthrow the government was killed by Evelyn (Watts), who has taken it upon herself to rule Chicago in order to establish peace. But in her desire to do good and satiate the bloodlust of those who were wronged by Janine and her army, she has become more brutal than her predecessor. She's consolidating her power by refusing to allow anyone leave the city. Realizing the road that she's going down, Tris (Woodley), Four (James) and their friends escape and get picked up by soldiers of the Bureau of Genetic Welfare. There, they find the truth about Chicago and Tris's purpose. But the leader, a man named David (Daniels), has some secrets he's keeping, and Tris has to find out who to trust before it's too late.
There's not a lot that's original in this movie. In fact, there are some obvious steals from the final "Hunger Games" installment and "The Maze Runner: Scorch Trials," although the less said about that movie, the better. It is easily superior to both of those movies because it's got better storytelling. Nothing spectacular, mind you, but it is well told.
The actors slide easily back into their parts. Shailene Woodley provides us with another strong tween heroine who is about 10 times more interesting than Katniss Everdeen. Theo James is uneven. He was good in the first two films, but there are times when his heart clearly isn't in it. Perhaps he's bored with the franchise. Jeff Daniels, always a reliable actor, is alternately fatherly and sinister. He hasn't been this good in a long time. The rest of the cast does solid jobs, with some scene-stealing provided by Miles Teller and Octavia Spencer.
The problem with this movie is that all the characters seem to lack critical thinking skills. The main group changes their minds as the plot develops, but they are all single-minded in their focus. The rest of the cast isn't even given that much dignity. I kept wondering if they would do what they were told if they actually stopped to think about it.
Never mind. It's little more than a minor quibble, and does little to lessen the entertainment value of this teen flick.