No matter how crazy things seem to get in modern society, there always seems to be room for a dystopian movie. Division 19 is set in a future were criminals are essentially reality TV stars. Customers pay to see their favorite criminals online. Corporations reap the monetary benefits, all citizens are required to be registered with the government, and living off the grid is a crime. All the elements are there for a fun dystopian thriller. Unfortunately, Division 19 never reaches the level of fun it should.
Dystopian stories should set a tone. While watching, the audience should feel dread, disgust, and even familiarity. For some reason, Division 19 is unable to hit any of these easy points. The movie uses the world “influencer” while the theme is about how important the Internet’s most downloaded stars are also society’s most important people. Aside from these slight references to the real world, the audience never feels immersed. There is no fear or worry about our world heading in this direction.
Part of the problem is the pacing of Division 19. It simply throws too much at the viewer. The end result is there is never time to take anything in. We do not care what is happening because the movie does not give us the opportunity to. The movie starts strong with a cynical version of the famous quote found on the Statue of Liberty. But just when you think it is a movie about change, the plot deals with the greed of corporate of America before veering off into a story about family. Before the issues of family and class are also touched on. It is a lot for a movie about a fugitive to take on.
This also ties in to the film’s other major problem. It is hard to tell exactly what it is about. At its core, a person can argue it is an examination of America. The argument can even be made that the frantic pace is mirroring the short attention span of today’s culture. Then, you realize the movie is not so much making any kind of statement as it is using every movie cliche possible. Again, this leads to a lot of things happening but none leave a lasting impact.
This all leads to a movie that is oddly boring. It does not cause boredom in a traditional sense, however. Instead, throwing so many ideas at the audience makes the entire plot irrelevant. There comes a point where it does not matter what is happening and people just turn off their brains. (This is especially easy to do since there are a few satisfactory payoffs.)
The sad thing is, Division 19 actually looks good. The theme of class divide the narrative is unable to adequately get across is seen in the camera work. Along with the fancy buildings and impressive technology, the movie also shows the abandon buildings and dirty streets. And without anyone having to say a word it is obvious there is a clear divide. If the script did not pay constant lip service to this inequity, the setting would be more send good enough.
Division 19 also does not rely on gaudy lighting and constant special effects to showcase its settings. Much like 1987’s RoboCop, the film uses simplistic locations. It is always refreshing when a movie does not use bombastic set pieces as a way of letting the audience know it is the future. It adds more authenticity to the film while those watching do not think the movie is using its budget to paper over a thin plot.
Division 19 is would be a fine dystopian future movie if it did not throw so much at its audience. It deals with numerous different topics, preventing the audience from ever getting involved with the story on any level. The movie take a unique look at the future and shows glimpses of a very good film. However, lack of focus prevents it from standing out.
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