Movie Review: Divinity is a Visually Innovative Arthouse Sci-Fi Thriller Masterpiece

Movie Review: Divinity is a Visually Innovative Arthouse Sci-Fi Thriller Masterpiece

Arthouse cinema thrives on its innovative, forward-thinking approach to storytelling, and the new sci-fi thriller, Divinity, certainly embraces that concept. The film flourishes on its unique vision of honoring the genre’s visual aesthetics of the past, as well as emphasizing modern society’s drive for self-preservation, especially during medical emergencies. The overall themes help viewers understand what it truly means to be human and compassionate towards others, even during times of crisis.

The drama was written and directed by Eddie Alcazar. He also served as a producer on the feature, which was executive produced by Academy Award-winning filmmaker, Steven Soderbergh.

Divinity, which is set in an otherworldly human existence, chronicles the legacy of scientist Sterling Pierce (Scott Bakula), who dedicated his life to the quest for immortality. He’s remembered for slowly creating the building blocks of the titular groundbreaking serum, which is believed to help humanity achieve endless youth.

Decades after Sterling began his experiments, his son, Jaxxon Pierce (Stephen Dorff), now controls and manufactures his father’s once-benevolent dream. Society on the planet, which as become barren, has been entirely influenced by the supremacy of the drug, whose true origins are shrouded in mystery.

In order to take control over how Divinity is used, two mysterious alien brothers, who are both named Star (Moises Arias and Jason Genao), arrive on the planet with a plan to abduct the mogul. Upon breaking into Jaxxon’s home, the two brothers launch their plan to change the way Divinity is used by humanity. They also strive to show Jaxxon the error of his ways by forcing him to take an overdose of the drug, which increases his pain and rage

During their mission, the two brothers are interrupted by a seductive sex worker named Nikita (Karrueche Tran), who was hired by Jaxxon. After she arrives at the house shortly after the brothers launch their plan, the trio begins working together.

Meanwhile, Jaxxon and the brothers must also battle a female race led by Ziva (Bella Thorne), which also aims to undo the destruction caused by Divinity. Despite their differing motives, Jaxxon, the brothers, Nikita and Ziva all embark on a path hurtling toward true immortality on a planet that’s afflicted by a high infertility rate.

Overall, Divinity is an ambitious, aesthetically pleasing lo-fi sci-fi movie. Disappointingly, its stellar visuals aren’t able to completely hide the fact that most of its story and characters have little dimension or depth. Stilted and redundant dialogue, the narrative and protagonists possess an overall sense of incoherency and underdevelopment.

For example, Arias and Genao’s fraternal characters carry intense magnetism from the moment they arrive on screen. However, the thriller doesn’t fully explain the duo’s motivations towards stopping Jaxxon’s ambitions for his father’s company.

Throughout the course of Divinity‘s story, the entrepreneur’s lack of moralism, particularly in terms of coercing society’s excessive drug-intake in order to achieve a collective pleasure, is only slowly revealed. As a result, the brothers’ desire to stop Jaxxon’s selfish and unethical actions are initially muddled.

While Arias and Genao’s characters largely drive the conflict in the film, and the characters are intriguing in their roles, Tran’s performance as Nikitia is the true standout. The actress is fierce as the inquisitive and independent female protagonist, who isn’t afraid to ask questions about the struggle between Jaxxon and the brothers, while also holding onto her own ambitions.

It is through Nikita’s independence and aspirations that the brothers gain a semblance of humanity.

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They not only learn what it means to be human through her actions, they also begin to truly understand the detrimental effects Divinity has had on the race.

While Divinity features a more linear, albeit underdeveloped, narrative than typical experimental movies, the actors’ captivating performances are supported by dazzling visuals. The drama features an overall stark, 1960-’70s-style desert landscape and a stunning mod mansion.

The overall sets created by the thriller’s production designer, Paul Rice, illuminate the surreal nature of Alcazar’s absurdist storytelling. Jaxxon’s mansion features arthouse sensibilities, notably through its analog cassette tapes and computers, which immerses the story in a retro setting. The rest of the mansion thrives on the character’s indulgent nature, from the excessive amount of food he has available for himself to the luxurious birthday party held there in his honor, which also makes the space feel futuristic.

Besides its production design, Divinity also truly thrives on the vision of  its unique camera work. The film’s cinematographer, Danny Hiele, shot the feature in gloriously luminous black-and-white 16mm.

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The analog, retro cinematography frames the sets and the performers with the nervousness of German expressionism, with lengthy shadows and sharp angles. The drama’s climactic fight scene is a memorable standout, as Hiele framed the final battle in dazzling stop motion that uses the land surrounding Jaxxon’s mansion to its advantage.

Overall, Divinity is aesthetically reminiscent of the lo-fi production of sci-fi television shows and movies from the 1960-’70s. Rice crafted a stark style desert landscape and an equally captivating mod mansion, which illuminate the surreal nature of Alcazar’s absurdist storytelling. The picturesque landscape and the actors’ captivating performances are brilliantly captured by Hiele’s gloriously luminous black-and-white camerawork.

While the film’s aesthetics honor the vintage visuals of the sci-fi genre’s height in the 1960’s-’70s, its themes are still relatable and vital in the modern world. Alcazar’s story emphasizes on how current society’s penchant for selfishness, especially in the post-pandemic times, can ultimately lead to the downfall of humanity.

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Grade: B

Divinity will be theatrically released in New York this Friday, October 13, and then in Los Angeles next Friday, October 20. It will then be released in theaters nationwide on Friday, November 3.

Check out more of Karen Benardello’s articles.

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