To start, this is a very weak 3 based solely on f/x, some dialog thanks to Marti Noxon, and my Gleeky fun at seeing Dianna Agron in a different-ish role. There arelly wasn’t a bad performance, though there was some cliched direction. All that said, having settled in with popcorn for what I thought and hoped would be a fun action, skiffy sort of diversion, I discovered instead that I was covered in a syrup of teen angst. Now that isn’t to say that this wasn’t an OK film (barely) but it really is aimed at the 15-21 yr old set. Oddly, the main characters really look older than that (though Pettyfer is just barely so). The casting strained credibility for me as they were supposed to be high school seniors… at least I hope they were to be seniors.
What was interesting was seeing how much more difficult it is to do a movie from the teen point of view than it is the pre-teen/child. There is a level of isolation that small children and most pre-teens have by virtue of the fantasy world they live in… before reality asserts itself. While adults play a role, it is more like the distant gods of Olympus rather than as overseers. A good example is The Spiderwick Chronicles. Teens and young-adults, however, are in the process of trying to break away from adult oversight but still very much underneath it. Portraying this age group without dealing with adults in a believable, if not realistic, manner comes across as absurd (at least to this adult ;-). When the balancing act is done well, it makes the story all the more powerful. Skins (BBC) really manages this in its 4th series (review coming soon).
In addition to the lack of realistic adults, the “science,” if you will, was weak and strained. I have no problem with science fantasy. It’s fun and allows a wonderful sort of mid-ground between magic and science. What will drive me nuts is poor plotting that doesn’t follow its own rules or think through the possibilities. For example, if you can teleport, why can’t you escape someone’s grip? If you can morph, what happens to the extra mass (forgetting the energy needs)? But, I tried to let that go and they did do some clever things with the emergent powers of our teen aliens. However, the entire trope that drives that story… that the kids are being killed off in a specifc, numbered order… well, if the book explains that, I don’t know, but the movie sure don’t and it is absurd without a reason (I managed to come up with a few on my own that could work, but have no idea if any is provided in the book series).
Overall, this was clearly a launching pad for a series–even to the point of not opening a legacy from the dead parents of our male lead that is clearly a central point before the credits rolled. I can see the possibilities, but a better level of script is necessary if they are going to get another bite at this and keep it alive. Given the weak boxoffice, however, I’m dubious they’ll get that chance.