REVIEW — “The Divergent Series: Allegiant”
The Hunger Games did it, as did the Harry Potter series before it. The trend of dividing the final book of a popular young adult book series into two separate films has been a shrewd way for Hollywood to extend the life of a beloved property and squeeze a few million more dollars out of it in the process. However, when the property in question is already running on fumes, it’s probably best to just wrap things up.
Unfortunately, the decision to split the third novel of Veronica Roth’s Divergent Series into two films was a mistake, and the series suffers for it. Derailing any momentum built by its predecessors, Divergent (2014) and Insurgent (2015), Allegiant hits the brakes on the action in an attempt to pull back the curtain and explain away the franchise’s mysteries. The result is an under-cooked film with little suspense, no final act and enough expository dialogue to put the audience to sleep.
The film picks up immediately following the events of Insurgent. The factions have dissolved and their leaders now form a council. Led by the Factionless Evelyn (Naomi Watts) and Amity’s Johanna (Octavia Spencer), the council conducts trials of the ruthless Erudite survivors. The Factionless have become an unruly mob seeking vengeance for their oppression, while the former Amity (now called Allegiant) plead for justice and compassion. These “trials” soon become no more than public executions. To save her Erudite brother, Caleb (Ansel Elgort), Tris (Shailene Woodley) and company escape beyond the outer wall.
Referred to as The Fringe, this unknown land is a toxic, barren wasteland soaked in blood. They are soon greeted by an army of the Bureau for Genetic Welfare and escorted inside ridiculous flying, maple syrup-colored bubbles (no lie) to meet its director, David (Jeff Daniels).
David spends the next 20 minutes throwing a lot of information at Tris and the audience. Almost too much to digest. Basically, David’s society has been monitoring all of the events inside Chicago’s walls for the past 200 years with advanced surveillance technology. Tris and her friends are treated like reality TV stars and soon realize their entire existence has been an experiment to cultivate the best of humanity through genetic modification resulting in Tris becoming the first 100% pure Divergent.
The film is full of celebrities. Those who survived the last film (Mekhi Phifer, Daniel Dae Kim, Ray Stevenson) turn up for brief cameos while Watts, Spencer and series newcomer, Daniels try their best to elevate the weak, predictable script.
The actors do their part despite having their talent wasted. Running on autopilot off of their previous performances, Woodley and Theo James display passable chemistry as Tris and Four. However, the relationship between Four (James) and his mother, Evelyn (Watts) is drastically underdeveloped.
The film’s saving grace is Miles Teller who easily provides all of the comic relief as the duplicitous, selfish and opportunistic traitor, Peter. The actor once complained that this series didn’t give him much to do, but this time around he gets a few more moments to shine. Although, I can’t blame him for feeling bored with this material.
The conclusion to The Divergent Series will arrive in theaters next year with Ascendant, and it can’t come soon enough – not because of any overly excited anticipation for the finale, but because fatigue has set in for YA film adaptations and the clock is ticking. They’d better wrap it up while the audience still cares.
After spending three movies with these characters, it may be difficult to just walk away without seeing how it all ends. But damn if Allegiant doesn’t do its best to test the audience’s allegiance to its characters.
The film preaches unity over separation. Perhaps the film’s producers should have kept that theme in mind before deciding to divide one story into two and assume we’d care enough to come back for the ending.
They should change the name of the next one to Ambivalent. 2/5
The Divergent Series: Allegiant, Rated PG-13, is in theaters now.