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FALLEN (2017) review

September 8, 2017

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written by: Nichole Millard, Kathryn Price and Michael Ross
produced by: Mark Ciardi, Gordon Gray, Bill Johnson & Jim Seibel
directed by: Scott Hicks
rated:  PG-13 (for thematic material, violent images, some sensuality, language and teen partying)
runtime: 92 min.
U.S. release date: September 8, 2017 (limited) 

 

It’s been a while since the “Twilight Saga” blew up the box office and now that highly-successful “The Hunger Games” adaptations have come and gone it’s natural that studios  are looking to adapt any best-selling YA that can get their hands on. They shouldn’t be too quick though, look what happened with the “Insurgent” series. Now an adaptation of a series of four books by author Lauren Tate has somehow been greenlit and we a cast of troubled teens in a formulaic story that consists of petty, self-absorbed characters that includes supernatural fantasy that’s just as half-baked as the groan-inducing romance. The catch here is we have fallen angels, with producers probably hoping that the conservative Christian audience that ran away from the lusty longings from sparkly vampires or werewolf boys, will return and embrace a fantasy they can call their own.

 

The main character is an inevitably beautiful teen named Lucinda “Luce” Price  (Addison Timlin), who is, of course, “disturbed with a scarred past” and as we’re introduced to her, she’s being dropped off by her parents at the door of a boarding school for – wait for it – troubled youth. Ugh. The reform school is called Sword and Cross (because there’s fallen angels and God and Satan and stuff), run by headmistress Ms. Sophia (Joely Richardson), and is primarily for kids with a wide range of impulsive behaviors, addictions and psychological issues.

 

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Feeling like the outsider, Luce is befriended by her roommate, Pen (Lola Kirke, who is fashoned with glasses, so she’s not as beautiful as the others girls), a girl who’s parents want nothing to do with her. There has to be a bully, immediately terrorizing Luce for some mysterious reason, and that’s the Goth-looking Molly (Sianoa Smit-McPhee) and then there’s the dreamy boys, one bad and hunky named Cam (Harrison Gilbertson) and one mysterious and hunky named Daniel (Jeremy Irvine), both of whom earn Luce’s attention because they’re cute and, well, there’s just something about them. However, there’s a stronger draw to Daniel for some reason and the more she’s around him the more she receives these strong visions of a past connection with him. She’s a little slow, but eventually the unbaptized Luce catches on and sees the spiritual warfare around her, soon learning she’s targeted by both angels and demons.

 

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The only reason I developed a mild interest in “Fallen” is because of director Scott Hicks. Granted, he’s had some misfires in his career, but this is the guy who guided Geoffrey Rush to an Oscar for “Shine”, one of my favorite films from the 90s. Unfortunately, the only other movie helmed by Hicks that I liked was 2001’s “Hearts in Atlantis”, the Stephen King adaptation with Anthony Hopkins and a young Anton Yelchin and even that had its problems. He’d go on to make movies that weren’t received that well, like “No Reservations” and the Nicholas Sparks adaptation “The Lucky One”, which I skipped altogether. So, when I saw the Uganda-born, Australian-raised filmmaker attached to this teen fantasy, I figured I’d give him a chance. In turn, I wound up wondering why Hicks gave this material a chance. It’s truly derivative, unoriginal and just plain awful.

With “Fallen” as bad as it is, I cannot imagine why nauseating the books are.  There’s a reason YA adaptations are fading away. This adaptation feels like it received the memo way too late and absolutely nothing about it is compelling or engaging. In fact, ten minutes in and I felt like a teen who was being asked what he’d like for dinner.

Comparisons to the “Twilight Saga” will undoubtedly run rampant – that is, if this thing generates an audience. There’s a checklist of brooding attitudes, jealous glares and despondent gazes, along with dopey romance. Both the characters and the young actors are just an embarrassment, since they’re trapped in a haze of cliches and contrived storylines.

 

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The only thing  “Fallen” has going for it are its visuals and I’m being generous by saying that. Hicks is wise to pair himself with Canadian cinematographer Alar Kivilo (who’s lensed Sam Raimi’s “A Simple Plan” and Scott Frank’s “The Lookout”), who is able to conjure an aura of  deserved moodiness for the picture, appropriately incorporating shadows and light in a way that plays an integral part in Luce’s discover of herself and her surroundings. Kivilo also utilizes the school in a useful manner, since it’s the movie’s main location, panning through the expansive interior and exterior of the campus, in an attempt to add on to the forced mystery of the picture. The story may be filled with moments of exposition about a larger story that I ultimately could care less about and the dialogue is some of the most cringe-worthy that I’ve heard all year, but at least “Fallen” looks good, right?

What kills this movie though are the characters. They’re sullen and rebellious for no reason other than they’re teenagers. That’s all I could figure out. Yes, Daniel is an angel, a “fallen” one at that, but could he lighten up a little? No, he’s haunted by his love connection with Luce, something he remembers and she doesn’t. So, why should we care? Just like “Twilight”, we have a love triangle. At least with that series, the characters were more interesting and the actors were definitely better.

As mentioned, the movie looks good, but the visual effects employed to provide the fantasy element feel very CW from ten years ago.  None of that is as egregious as the heavy-handed characterization and predictable choices the actors make though. Ultimately, maybe this is just a situation where I’m so far away from the target demographic for such a drippy melodramatic production that there’s just no way it could work for me. At least I tried.

Some movies are just a painful bore and some you know they’re gonna be crap just by looking at their posters. Of course, this will probably be the kind of teen drivel I will one day catch my daughter watching as my eyes roll back into my head.

 

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RATING: *

 

 

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