Synopsis – After the earth-shattering revelations of Insurgent, Tris must escape with Four beyond the wall that encircles Chicago to finally discover the shocking truth of what lies behind it.
My Take – I honestly cant wait for this YA novel adaption fever to go down. We all know The Hunger Games and Twilight series have ended. The Host, The 5th Wave, Mortal Instruments, Beautiful Creatures and Ender’s Game never really took off. That leaves the Maze Runner and the Divergent series flying Hollywood’s Young Adult flag for now. The third movie in the Divergent series lands and like many of their tween contemporaries they have not resisted the temptation to start splitting the last couple of chapters into extra parts thus dragging out the story more often than not at the expense of the quality of the movie. However, that’s not to say you can just step into this one with no prior knowledge of the other films. The main problem with this Veronica Roth’s best-selling trilogy is that series never feels unique, with elements borrowed heavily for the Hunger Games series as well as better science fiction films out there. Despite four acclaimed writers behind the movies, this third entry seems to be created with minimum fashion to please a maximum amount of viewers. Even though the movie has obvious flaws, the film has a certain appeal with all the Matrix-like effects and post-apocalyptic sequences, which somehow makes the film stand out. This is much better than the last one, which mind you, doesn’t say much. It has a promising start, with two sides fighting for power/control and our heroes stuck in the middle trying to figure out which side to choose, A or B. Eventually they choose C: leaving. The story follows Tris Prior (Shailene Woodley), picking up after the revelations at the end of Insurgent where our main protagonist learned the truth about their walled city, which leads to an uprising in Chicago and executions are rife. Tris, Four (Theo James), her sibling Caleb (Ansel Elgort) and comrades-in-arms Peter (Miles Teller) and Christina (Zoe Kravitz) determine to escape over the wall and find out exactly what is on the other side.
Hoping to find a better world they instead discover that their enclosure is actually an experiment and they have been watched all their lives. However, Tris begins working with the David (Jeff Daniels) the director of the company responsible for this to try and help the people still trapped in the city. The demise of Jeanine (Kate Winslet) has left a power vacuum, which is neatly filled by Evelyn (Naomi Watts), embittered leader of the faction-less, and Johanna (Octavia Spencer), figurehead of peace-loving Amity. However with no one who they seem to be and people working to their own agendas it will take strength, good judgement and courage in order to do the right thing. So this one is basically like the first two movies of The Divergent series, albeit with higher stakes. Outside the clutches of the ludicrous system that novelist Veronica Roth has conceived for her popular book franchise, the characters are now burdened with the same conflict outside Chicago. As it turns out, the futuristic world, headed by a demure bureaucrat (Jeff Daniels), still stratifies humanity, only this time, they aren’t divided by personality but by genetic purity. Director Robert Schwentke, who inherited the series from Neil Burger, has a bigger canvas to fill. Burger’s mannered approach to Roth’s garish allegory gave the first film a certain dignified quality that is quite rare in the genre. Schwentke, however, shifted the tone of the series, making it more conventional without necessarily ornamenting the series with astounding spectacles. Insurgent was vapid and near incomprehensible with its confused take on the juvenile philosophy that veiled the whole adventure. Anyway, as soon as the film’s sulking heroes and heroines escape ruined Chicago, the film immediately lets out a great gasp of air, having finally been released from the redundancy of abandoned skyscrapers and unkempt streets. This could have been Schwentke’s opportunity to think outside the box, to make his mark in a series that is feels like a poor imitation of all the other poor imitations that Hollywood has been churning recently. Outside, everything is red and noxious, almost like the suffocating desert of George Miller’s Mad Max: Fury Road with a bad case of acne. It almost feels like the series is treading towards a more mature and sarcastic direction, where the series’ kids who are always right are to finally get their comeuppance and admit that their adults are correct all along. There is no hope outside the walls. Sadly, the initial awe is immediately replaced by the tedium of experiencing everything repeat itself, only this time, with more obvious computer-generated graphics. The bare crimson landscapes feel fake and soulless, as opposed to having the imprint of seeing humanity die.
Once the young cast gets away from Chicago it is a bit better, with some good moments in a bombed out wasteland and some decent set design in a futuristic outpost. A scene at a high wall is a standout, but one also has to question the intelligence of the Tris and her friends for overlooking an obvious problem with getting past it. Unlike Katniss Everdeen, Divergent‘s spunky trailblazer Tris becomes increasingly reactive in this third outing and is superfluous for extended periods as peripheral characters learn valuable plot information that can be distilled in expository dialogue. Plus, how many times do we need to see Teller’s Peter selfishly betray his brethren? Always fond of pseudo-science and ethical norms, the Divergent series reaches a new, mildly pretentious peak here. There’s even a double-helix Bureau staircase, to underline the science-y symbolism. But its sort-of topical themes of genetic exclusion, surveillance, racism and ignoring neighboring conflict (Chicago is riven by tribal warfare between the Faction-less and those in support of the old system) don’t translate into meaty exploits. Instead the film favors wide-eyed romance between Tris and boyfriend Tobias aka Four. Just like the previous films or most films of the genre, there are a lot of A-list actors in here, including Naomi Watts, Octavia Spencer, Jeff Daniels and Miles Teller, but none of them give a performance that looks like they care about what’s going on. It’s not their fault that this is such a dull story to have to act out, but I’m just pointing out that they don’t do much to really improve it even one bit. Especially comic relief Miles Teller (in arguably his worst movie role, keeping in count Fantastic Four) looks like he’s being advised to tone down his zingers so as to make his humorless cohorts appear just a few micro-increments more interesting. The low point is a scene in which Zoe Kravitz’s Christina is ushered in from the sidelines to get some face time with Tris and say her piece, but before she utters a word there’s an interruption and Tris has to run off somewhere else. It’s a critical cliché to state that a character doesn’t have anything to do in a movie, but Kravitz literally has no function in this one. The chief joy of the series, Shailene Woodley seems natural in the way she pulls off her character’s transformation from the previous films, along with her co star Theo James, who seems to be getting better somehow. On the whole, ‘The Divergent Series: Allegiant’ doesn’t stand on its own feet and falls short in terms of what the previous films set up.
Director – Robert Schwentke
Rated – PG13
Run Time – 121 minutes