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Review: The Divergent Series: Allegiant (2016)

The Divergent Series: Allegiant (2016)

Directed by: Robert Schwentke

Premise: The third film in the Divergent series. Following the events of Insurgent, in which the faction system was destroyed, the victors persecute their former oppressors. Tris (Shailene Woodley) and company flee the city and discover the truth about the faction system. 
What Works: The main problem with the Divergent series was that its very premise was dumb. The first movie was about a society in which people were sorted into rigid castes based on their talents and dispositions; those who don’t fit into these categories, or factions, were considered “divergent” and therefore deemed a threat to society. The problem was that those categories, including selflessness, bravery, intelligence, honesty, and peacefulness, were not totally encompassing of the human experience and no one is defined by a single personality trait. In Allegiant, the lead characters travel outside of the ruins of Chicago and Tris and her allies discover an answer that retroactively causes the faction system to make some sense. Allegiant is also admirable in the way it complicates the revolution of Insurgent. In a lot of dystopian movies about populist movements facing down tyranny and overthrowing the establishment, the solution is too simple. The storytellers of Allegiant recognize that revolutions usually fail even when they succeed and the new order is often as cruel and oppressive as the old order. That’s dramatized in this film and it adds some maturity to the story world.
What Doesn’t: The Divergent franchise is another example of a young adult fantasy series in which the last book of the trilogy has been split into two films: 2016’s Allegiant and 2017’s Ascendant. The strange flaw of Allegiant is that there are enough plot developments in this half to sustain a single movie but the filmmakers don’t do nearly enough with them to make the story interesting. The first part of Allegiant is about Tris and her allies escaping from the increasing brutality of the post-revolutionary city. But the film doesn’t do anything interesting with all of that. With very little exposition or deliberation, the characters immediately decide they have to leave but for some reason revolutionary leader Evelyn (Naomi Watts) is obsessed with keeping everyone within the confines of the city. This conflict doesn’t make much sense. Tris and company escape into the wasteland where they discover a facility headed by David (Jeff Daniels), a scientists and bureaucrat who has been pulling the strings inside of Chicago and managing the faction system as part of a bigger experiment. This section of the story ought to be full of interesting tensions. Since the main characters have left Chicago, the city is devolving into a civil war between factions led by Evelyn and Johanna (Octavia Spencer). Four (Theo James) argues that they should go back and stop the bloodshed while Tris attempts to discover David’s real agenda. The impending civil war ought to create some drama and the disagreement between Tris and Four ought to magnify that tension but Allegiant is really boring. Some of that is due to the cumulative failures of Divergent and Insurgent. Those movies didn’t set up interesting characters or a compelling story world and Allegiant inherits all of those flaws. But the filmmakers do nothing to fix those problems. Tris remains an uninteresting lead character and her romantic relationship with Four has no heat. The civil war ought to create some interest but no one is fighting over anything tangible. There’s no tension in the research facility sequences and the twists are obvious from the start. As a result, a lot of Allegiant comes across as filler. What’s most irritating about Allegiant is that the moviemakers are deliberately running out the clock so that the studio can make another movie and the audience can buy another ticket.

Bottom Line: Allegiant is the beginning of the end for the Divergent series but this franchise ran out of compelling ideas in its first installment. There’s nothing left to do except wait for the inevitable finale that no one is looking forward to.

Episode: #589 (April 3, 2016)