Movie review: ‘Divergent’ series sputters with ‘Allegiant’
–Young adult book series adapted into film series have been all the rage in recent years. Last fall we saw one popular series — “The Hunger Games” — limp to the finish with a flat final offering.
The “Divergent” series didn’t come into theaters with as much fanfare, but through two films it built a solid following. With “Allegiant,” which was released March 18, the series is making a pivot toward its conclusion. After radically changing the world in “Insurgent,” the second installment in the series, “Allegiant” seemed to pave the way for something new.
At least that was a logical conclusion. But much like what happened with the dystopian vision of the future offered in “The Hunger Games,” that doesn’t end up being all it’s cracked up to be for the “Divergent” series either.
In “Allegiant,” Tris (Shailene Woodley) and Four (Theo James) have defeated Jeanine (Kate Winslet), effectively ending the faction system. But the lack of struck leaves a void for all those left in Chicago.
Eveyln (Naomi Watts) and Johanna (Octavia Spencer) have stepped into the void, but they have very different ideas of how Chicago should be run. Meanwhile Tris remains on the sidelines, focused on what lies beyond the wall. Evelyn ordered the wall shut and that no one leave Chicago.
Tris, however, believes that she got the message for a reason and needs to venture beyond the walls to see what remains of the world. Together with Four, Christiana (Zoe Kravitz), Peter (Milles Teller) and Caleb (Ansel Elgort), Tris rebels against Evelyn’s rule and makes it over the wall. Soon, the group comes across the survivors beyond the wall — The Bureau of Genetic Wellfare.
At the Bureau, Tris discovers she’s the answer to the problem that prompted the group to create the Chicago experiment. As she gets closer to the Bureau leader, David (Jeff Daniels), she hopes he’ll be the answer to creating a lasting peace at home. But Four begins to suspect the Bureau isn’t what it claims to be, and soon his suspicions prove correct.
Tris, Four and their friends are forced to once again fight for the future of their home and the people that live there.
One of the tough things about these book series is the worlds they present. People dive into fiction —or go to the movie — as a means of escape. But these distopian visions of the future seem to end in the same place, with distrust of governments and institutions and one bad government being replaced by another. That might be an accurate reflection of reality —or even a perception of reality— but it’s hardly the satisfying ending audiences are seeking.
I was disappointed in the flaccid way “The Hunger Games” ended after a strong start. While the “Divergent” series has another film to build its conclusion, the third installment started down a similarly disappointing path. It’s not a bad film, it’s just not inspiring or as engrossing as what came before it.
Part of that is a result of the story, which feels ponderous, sometimes confusing and leaves our heroes separated for large portions of the narrative. The final act is similarly dissatisfying in terms of story, action and resolution.
Another part of the problem is that this film —more so than others in the series— feels too CGI-heavy. Large portions of the film are quite obviously done in front of a green screen and aren’t as visually appealing as they could be.
Finally, the weakest part of the series for me has always been the relationship between Tris and Four, which sometimes feels forced. That was especially true in this third installment, where it felt they were lacking in on-screen chemistry.
It might sound like I hated this film. I didn’t. I just thought it was a giant step backward for the series, which makes me concerned about where it’s moving in the final installment. Woodley is a talented young actress who has been great in some smaller films. But “Allegiant” doesn’t make the best use of her abilities, nor does it make the best use of an otherwise talented cast. Too many of the characters lack dimension, which adds to the story falling flat.
There’s a lot of potential here, but “Allegiant” doesn’t realize that potential.
“The Divergent Series: Allegiant” has been rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America for intense violence and action, thematic elements, and some partial nudity.
Two stars out of four.
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