Director: Robert Schwentke
Cast: Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Jeff Daniels, Naomi Watts, Ansel Elgort, Miles Teller
Running Time: 121 minutes
Watching THE DIVERGENT SERIES makes me long for the days of TWILIGHT. Despite the quality of the Stephenie Meyer series (they’re awful), the films always made a point to utilize the various rules and details of vampirism. In trying to create her own fictional world, author Veronica Roth has crafted a potential goldmine of interesting science fiction ideas based on the ideology of totalitarian control of the masses emotions. However, these ideas have often become buried and forgotten underneath the tiresome and familiar young adult tropes.
THE DIVERGENT SERIES: ALLEGIANT is the latest in this trend. Falling short of even the previously mediocre series standards, ALLEGIANT exists as an example of creative bankruptcy and an utter disinterest in an already disinterested franchise.
Picking up after the events of INSURGENT, the five factions of Chicago have learned that not only was their society a lie, but it was a genetic experiment run by the Bureau of Genetic Welfare. Civil unrest begins brewing within the Chicago walls, with new leader Evelyn (Naomi Watts) ordering the execution of anyone who worked with the former leaders.
Choosing to leave Chicago, Tris (Shailene Woodley) and Four (Theo James) travel beyond the city walls with Peter (Miles Teller), Christina (Zoe Kravitz), and Caleb (Ansel Elgort). Eventually the group discovers the Bureau, whose director, David (Jeff Daniels) ends up being equally dangerous and corrupt as the faction based government the group just left. Realizing the dangers of the outside world, Tris and friends must confront the manipulative Bureau and the vengeful leader who threaten to destroy Chicago.
ALLEGIANT joins the growing list of young adult novels that have been split into two films, in the same vain of HARRY POTTER, THE HUNGER GAMES and the aforementioned TWILIGHT. Because of this there is an aura of conclusiveness looming over the final film that too often chooses quantity over quality. There is a larger focus on action set pieces and CGI backdrops compared to previous films, but abysmal characterization and plot leave us no reason to care.
One could read the one-dimensional character as being reflective of the faction system seen within the movies, as it’s a system designed to promote an individuals single best trait. Yet three movies in and we still barely know anything about these characters beyond that. Going into the film there is a general lack of status quo, as characters move around without the film explaining motivation. The only exception to this is Miles Teller’s Peter, who has always enjoyed playing the smug anti-hero in these films and continues here.
A large focus is on the straining relationship between Tris and Four and Tris’ distrust of her brother Caleb, but they feel completely static. Relationships as a whole are handled poorly throughout the film with major developments happening off screen at times. We do not see Tris and Caleb genuinely learn to be a family again except for when it is necessary to the plot. Because of this we never are allowed to watch the events unfold from a character’s perspective, the film actively removes the audience from the experience. None of this is helped by the lazy acting of the cast, most notably Woodley who appears fed up with the role throughout the entire film.
The biggest issue with ALLEGIANT is how derivative the entire film feels. Instead of delving into the fascinating world or themes hidden beneath, the film once again focuses on mind-control plot line that culminates in another substance-fueled reality trip. Tris and Four’s relationship is thrown into pointless turmoil thanks to Four’s discovery of the Bureau’s research. Peter even betrays the group for a third time, and the film treats it as a shocking revelation. For any franchise film there will be diminishing returns, and THE DIVERGENT SERIES is no different. These story lines are finished.
Despite being the most visually impressive film in the franchise, director Robert Schwentke fails to bring any energy to the film. A few short sequences involving robotic drones add some visual flair to the cinematography in what is otherwise an unnecessary sequel. Maybe if the last book was not split into two separate movies the film would be able to carry the momentum of its source material, but as it is ALLEGIANT simply does not care. And neither should you.
THE DIVERGENT SERIES: ALLEGIANT opens in theaters on 10th March in the UK and 18th March in the US.