Allegiant is a subpar installment in The Divergent Series that fails to justify the decision to split the final Divergent novel into two movies.
The Divergent Series: Allegiant picks up not too long after the events of Insurgent, as the residents of post-apocalyptic Chicago deal with not only the aftermath of the Erudite faction’s hostile takeover of their city but also the revelation that they are part of an experiment – one being run by mysterious individuals who reside outside the wall that surrounds Chicago. However, ex-Factionless leader Evelyn (Naomi Watts), who is now the head of the Chicago society and has dissolved the old faction system, forbids everyone – including her own son Four (Theo James) – from leaving the city, even as Chicago’s population moves closer and closer towards civil war in reaction to Evelyn and her followers’ divisive actions.
Nevertheless, Tris (Shailene Woodley) and Four defy Evelyn’s command and assemble a group to travel beyond the Chicago wall, eventually making their through the post-apocalyptic wasteland to the Bureau of Genetic Welfare: the organization that is running the Chicago “experiment”, currently under the leadership of a scientist named David (Jeff Daniels). However, as Tris and Four learn more about the Bureau and their mission over time, it starts to become clear that David’s true goals are not the same as theirs – and that Chicago faces as much danger from outside its walls as it does within.
The Divergent Series: Allegiant is the first of two movies based on Divergent creator Veronica Roth’s Allegiant source novel, with the second installment, Ascendent, due to arrive in 2017. Unfortunately, the Allegiant film adaptation suffers from the same main problem that has inflicted the penultimate chapters in such young adult franchises as Twilight and The Hunger Games before it; namely, in spite of the efforts of screenwriters Noah Oppenheim (The Maze Runner), Bill Collage and Adam Cooper (Exodus: Gods and Kings), Allegiant is unable to craft a satisfying three-act narrative out of a fraction of its source material’s storyline. Instead, the second to last Divergent film is all narrative build-up that leads to an underwhelming payoff in its third act – one that only partially ties off certain character arcs that are established at the beginning of the movie, while leaving other key plot threads fully dangling for Ascendent to pick up.
Allegiant, more than its predecessors, also suffers from muddled world-building; as a result, the major revelations and plot turns that transpire over the course of the film have limited dramatic impact – and frequently call more attention to the flaws in the series’ over-arching mythology, instead. It doesn’t help that new story elements introduced in Allegiant are highly derivative of those from both The Hunger Games and Maze Runner film series (among other YA properties), yet fail to deliver (in turn) the complex political intrigue and/or thrilling action that distinguish its YA sci-fi peers, more so than even previous installments in the Divergent movie franchise. Overall, though, Allegiant doesn’t fall that far short of clearing the bar for storytelling quality set by previous installments in this series, and there are intriguing concepts and ideas at play here (like in Divergent films past)… even if they’re half-baked and likely to prompt confusion among most viewers who haven’t already read Roth’s source books ahead of time.
The Divergent Series: Insurgent director Robert Schwentke was at the helm on Allegiant, in the process incorporating more of the interesting camera shot choices and stylistic flourishes here that he and his go-to cinematographer Florian Ballhaus likewise used on Insurgent. Moreover, Allegiant does succeed in expanding the visual scope and scale of the Divergent series as it integrates more fantastical sci-fi settings and technology into the mix – offering a more satisfying IMAX viewing experience than past Divergent movies have, in the process. Problem is, the futuristic production design and costumes here is highly reminiscent of those from other YA series (again, see Hunger Games) and additional post-apocalyptic films alike (see Oblivion), but without always having an equally polished appearance and look – resulting in some striking visuals, but several green screen-y images and scenery too. Indeed, the best sequences in Allegiant are those that are more grounded in their nature (such as the hand to hand combat/action scenes), few in number they may be.
Much of Allegiant is focused on further developing the Divergent Series‘ mythology, resulting in numerous exposition-heavy scenes – but not leaving much room for compelling character development, in the process. Shailene Woodley and Theo James as Tris and Four, respectively, have settled into their roles comfortably by this point; yet with little in the way of intriguing material for them to explore here (save a rushed complication to the relationship between Tris and Four), the pair seem to be on auto-pilot mode while they play their characters. Supporting players such as Zoë Kravitz (as Christina) and Maggie Q (as Tori) are likewise in the movie just long enough to move the story along and little else, while Jonny Weston’s Edgar is suddenly presented as being a key antagonist – in order to (apparently) fill the hole left by Jai Courtney’s Eric – and Ansel Elgort’s Caleb is presented with a simple, but clean, redemption arc. Meanwhile, Miles Teller’s Peter is one of the standouts in Allegiant, if only because Teller is the one cast member who’s apparently allowed to have a sense of humor about the film’s proceedings.
There’s a compelling schism that forms between those who follow Naomi Watts’ Evelyn and those who support Octavia Spencer as the former Amity representative Johanna in Allegiant – and while that plot thread is put on the back-burner for much of the movie’s running time, Watts and Spencer make the most of their scenes onscreen together in Allegiant. Most of the other adult characters in the third Divergent film stay in the background for much of the narrative (including those played by Daniel Dae Kim, Ray Stevenson, and so forth), though Jeff Daniels is solid enough as David: a morally ambiguous character who otherwise isn’t all that memorable and feels only partly fleshed out here, probably as a result of his character arc in the Allegiant source novel being split between two films.
Allegiant is a subpar installment in The Divergent Series that fails to justify the decision to split the final Divergent novel into two movies. The movie aims to both offer a satisfying standalone narrative and lay the foundation for the Divergent Series film finale, but the final result is a penultimate chapter that is half-baked and unable to maintain the standard for quality established by its predecessors (which was lower than for other YA properties to begin with). Allegiant isn’t so under-whelming that it should convince too many to jump off the Divergent train now, and those who are hardcore fans of the series ought to get additional mileage out of the film – or, at the least, needed setup for what will hopefully be a better (final) chapter in Tris’ story, with Ascendent.
The Divergent Series: Allegiant is now playing in U.S. theaters nationwide. It is 121 minutes long and is Rated PG-13 for intense violence and action, thematic elements, and some partial nudity.
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