The Divergent Series: Allegiant Review

DAMAGED GOODS


 

Veronica Roth’s Divergent series was (and still is) a popular in contemporary teen / YA dystopian novels of today (somewhere between The Hunger Games series and the Maze Runner series). Like those two series, Roth’s Divergent series made the jump to the big screen back in 2014 with Divergent. This first film, which introduced viewers to Tris, Four, and the rest of five selective factions gang, was met with mixed reviews, but was one its way to become a strong contender for The Hunger Games movies, which had two successful movies under its belt. Tris’s journey continued the following year with the movie The Divergent Series: Insurgent, which made less money (domestically) and was still received by mixed reviews from fans and critics. Now Summit Entertainment and Robert Schwentke continues the franchise in the next chapter with the film The Divergent Series: Allegiant. Is this third entry worth a glance or is a pointless and failed dystopian adventure?

THE STORY


Abolishing the Faction system that has governed their society for years, the future looks bright for the denizens of Chicago, who are given opportunity to experience life beyond the walls that imprison them. However, Evelyn (Naomi Watts), the newly appointed leader, refuses to look beyond the wall, preferring to gain control of the newly formed Chicago (executing Jeannine’s former cohorts and followers) and butting heads with Amity’s former leader Johanna (Octavia Spencer). While Chicago is on the brink of eruption between Evelyn and Johanna, Tris (Shailene Woodley), Four (Theo James), Christina (Zoe Kravitz), Caleb (Ansel Elgort), and Peter (Miles Teller) decided to escape, heading beyond the wall and entering a desolate wasteland/ Rescued by the Bureau of Genetic Welfare, Tris and her friends are inducted into a brand new society that retrains them in the ways of surveillance and warfare, while Tris herself is introduced to their leader David (Jeff Daniels), who’s looking to copy her “Divergent” genetic purity to help repopulate their dying world. Under the promise of saving Chicago from tearing itself apart, Tris agrees to assist David, but at what cost?

 

THE GOOD / THE BAD


As I said above, Veronica’s Roth Divergent novel series has had success from its novels, but as had a less-than favorable profit from its cinematic adventures. Personally, I liked Divergent. Sure it had some problems with the movie (see my review), but the first tale in any movie saga usually is and builds upon those “lessons learned” in its future sequential installments. Unfortunately, The Divergent Series doesn’t learn from that as was the case when I saw The Divergent Series: Insurgent, making more mistakes in storytelling and character development than its predecessor did (see my review). When I saw the trailers for the next movie (this one), I was a little excited to see, but was skeptical about it as the filmmakers decided to spilt the Allegiant, the third book in the series, into another two-part finale (will talk more on that below). While I hoped that things were going to get better for the movie franchise, the downward spiral continues as The Divergent Series: Allegiant flounders with a boring “filler” feature that fails to ignite a viewer’s attention and / or excitement.

Similar to what I say for my review for Maze Runner: Scorch Trials I can’t compare “apples to apples” between the book Allegiant and the feature film Allegiant. I will go on record stating that I did read the three main novels of Veronica Roth’s Divergent series (didn’t read Four). However, I can’t recall what happened in Allegiant. I remember a couple of scenes (especially the big ending surprise), but everything else is a blur to me. Thus, I can’t really speak on what was truly add, changed, or removed from the Allegiant movie.

Robert Schwentke, the director of the previous installment (Insurgent), is back in the director’s seat for Allegiant. One would think that a director, who created the movie before, will have an easy time the second go around, being familiar with tone, setting, characters, and narration structure of the series (both in terms past and presents. However, Schwentke seems to stand upon shake ground when helming Allegiant, stumbling on many things that make the feature cold to the touch.

Perhaps the biggest culprit was the studio’s decision to the spilt the Allegiant movie into two parts (a common reoccurrence with popular Teen / YA movie franchise series). While the studio will argue the point of splitting the narrative into movies is beneficial, offering a more expanded and encompassing world to the movie as well as aggrandizing the finale than what it was in its source material, the truth of the matter is that studio does it to capitalize on the market of moviegoers (double the feature, double the profit). This is especially noticeable with other past two-part endeavors (Harry Potter, Twilight, and most recent in The Hunger Games). Each follow that path and each one (though profitable in their doings) was heavily criticized for making that spilt decision. The Divergent Series follows down that path with the film Allegiant (acting as Allegiant: Part 1) and its finale counterpart Ascendant (acting as Allegiant: Part 2) to follow soon after. And that’s not a good thing.

As it stands, Allegiant (similar to other part 1 of 2 Teen / YA installments), finds itself as a bridge of sorts, setting up the events for the big showdown that would be revealed and ultimately climax during the final film (i.e. the next film). Thus, it comes as no surprise that Allegiant is a “bridge to nowhere”, with little excitement to fill a movie, with a running time of a little bit over two hours long. The narrative story starts off strong, with the main characters venturing out into the world beyond the confines of their walls, but, as the movie progresses, things become less riveting and get tangled up in heavy expositions and backwards thing. Of course, the film’s world is expanded upon, offering new ground to uncover as well as he machinations behind of how the world fell into ruin and the mythos behind the pure “Divergent” genetic code. While this is good and does help, Allegiant does it in a way that gets muddled and bogged down with poor execution handling, feeling half-baked, and unimpressive. I honestly felt bored watching the movie. There’s just wasn’t anything to get excited about during this movie. They even recycled an idea from previous first movie!

Perhaps the biggest notable change from Insurgent to Allegiant is in its visual effects department.  You can oblivious tell that more money was put into the movie as some scenes seems to “ooze” with CG visuals. Like I said above, while it does help the movie (imagining the new technology used by the Bureau of Genetic Welfare and the expansive world beyond Chicago), it shouldn’t be the greatest highlight of the feature (even higher than the story being told). Thus, with a subpar story to engage viewers, Allegiant’s CG visuals are just a barge of futuristic / dystopian imagines; some of which have feel generic and being done before. Their some cool and nifty cinematic shots (thanks to the film’s cinematographer Florian Ballhaus), but it just isn’t enough. As a side note, music in the movie, composed by Joseph Trapanese has its musical moments, but it’s nothing to rave about or to run out and buy the film’s soundtrack.

Allegiant is indeed made to make the series larger, in both scale and scope, while examining the mythos via heavy-handed exposition scenes, but that doesn’t live room for character development. That being said, the film’s two leads, Shailene Woodley and Theo James as Tris and Four, respectfully, have somewhat settled into their roles comfortably. However, that means that theirs little in the way of “new” material and so their characters become stagnant as Allegiant does give them room to grow and (judging by their performances) they seem not that too interested in doing so as if running on “auto-pilot”.  On the other hand, compared to the other teen / YA movie couples, Woodley and James still look good together as couple (still ten times better than Kristen Stewart and Robert Patterson).

Proving to be the best “standout” role in Allegiant is Miles Teller’s Peter, who is comedic timing helps create a memorable character (with probably the best lines in the movie). Ansel Elgort is a little bit more present this go around as Caleb, with small-arc story of redemption of past actions. Similarly, Jonny Weston’s character of Edgar is more present as well, but is more delegated into the more of a de-facto bad guy henchmen antagonist (filling the role left by Jai Courtney’s Eric). Other movie supporting characters like Zoe Kravitz’s Christina and Maggie Q’s Tori are just in the movie for continuity reasons.

There’s an interesting division between Naomi Watt’s character Evelyn and Octavia Spencer’s character Johanna that movie presents. While the movie puts that topics on the “back-burner” (focusing on the events Tris and her friends more), Watts and Spencer did what they can in the respective roles. The rest of the returning adult cast members are, more or less, in the background and are just there for continuity or to move the narrative forward, including Ray Stevenson, Daniel Dae Kim, and Mekhi Phifer). Of the new characters that make their first appearance in Allegiant, its only Jeff Daniels’s David that stands out. Daniel’s handles the ambiguous character with enough theatrical weight that it doesn’t become cartoony, which some might have done. The rest of the new characters, including Nadia

Lastly, as I said this in my review for Insurgent, I felt that the conclusion of Insurgent was sufficient enough and sort had a fitting conclusion to the story. Of course, I know there was another book to be told (again having read Allegiant years ago) and knew that the movie franchise would continue with creating the movie, but I have this sort of feeling that Allegiant movie is, more or less, a fan fiction epilogue to the first two movies that came before. I don’t know…. maybe it’s just me.

FINAL THOUGHTS


Third time’s a charm (or at least that’s what Schwentke is going for) in The Divergent Series: Allegiant. This latest entry in the franchise has some ambitious ideas, expanding its world building fundamentals and proving to have larger story at play. However, the film doesn’t grasp the knowledge completely of expanding its world, falling prey to pass YA shenanigans with bloated CG visuals, flat characters, and nonsensical storytelling. Personally, it was just “so-so” and was disappointed with it, proving to be my least favorite in the franchise (so far) and is really a tossup for viewers to see this movie as I would only recommend it to hardcore fans of the series. With The Divergent Series: Ascendant, the final movie in this franchise, coming out next year (June 2017), this popular dystopian saga that started out strong will (unless the do something drastic) most likely conclude with a docile fanfare. As for this move, using, the film’s terminology The Divergent Series: Allegiant is best described as “damaged goods”.

2.4 Out of 5 (Iffy Choice / Skip It)

 

Released On: March 18th, 2016
Reviewed On: March 18th, 2016

The Divergent Series: Allegiant is rated PG-13 for intense violence and action, thematic elements, and some partial nudity

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