Poor old Divergent. Things started off well at the box office with the first movie, which helped Lionsgate decide they should expand their plans and turn the three books into four films. However, the second movie was slightly muted at the box office, and this one didn’t do well at all.
In Allegiant, Tris (Shailene Woodley) has opened the box, which suggests the city and its factions are part of an experiment, and that despite what they’ve been told, there is more to the world outside Chicago’s walls. Once out (despite many trying to stop them), Tris, Four (Theo James), her brother (Ansel Elgort) and Peter (Miles Teller), meet David (Jeff Daniels), the director of the experiment. He says they have been using Chicago and the factions to eventually find somebody genetically pure – the other people are defective – and that Tris may be that person.
While Tris’ head is turned by what David says and the possibilities he offers, Four begins to suspect that the society they’ve just arrived in may be as bad or worse than the one they left. Meanwhile, Chicago descends into civil war as the different factions attempt to re-establish power.
Allegiant is a film where you certainly have to give them marks for effort, but fewer for execution. It’s not entirely the makers and actors’ fault. Ever since it started there’s been a sense that this is Hunger Games-lite, and with Allegiant there’s a feeling that it noticed Maze Runner was a success, so decided to throw a bit of that in too. That’s unfair as it’s based on Veronica Roth’s pre-existing books (although Allegiant departs significantly from the novel so they’d have enough material to fill two movies), but after the greater success of those movies, it’s tough not to see it that way.
Some of the blame too has to go to Roth, as the whole idea of a city divided into factions based on these particular arbitrary character traits is rather daft in the way it’s presented, and the only way they’ve been able to get away with it on-screen is to hide the parts that don’t make any sense. It’s undermined everything, and while Allegiant tries to explain why it’s like that, it actually just adds in a whole lot more that makes no sense and is rather stupid if you give more than a second’s thought – and that’s despite it ladling on the allegorical ideas. For example, several time Tris talks about the important work she’s doing with David and what they’re trying to achieve, but we never actually see them trying to do anything, as that would reveal the experiment and its results are a pretty dumb and pointless idea.
Mixed in with lacklustre action sequences and the fact that they’re obviously trying to keep a cap on the budget and so the special effects are sometimes a little ropey, and you’ve got a film that’s gasping for breath. Add in the fact that the jump outside the city means a lot needs to be explained, and you’ve essentially got 90 minutes of rather tedious exposition trying to explain what’s going on, with a little plot and action thrown in as garnish.
The film inevitably ends on a cliffhanger, but even three films in to The Divergent Series it’s difficult to care too much what happens next. These are unbelievable people, living in an unbelievable world. Ultimately that’s true of most sci-fi, but normally you can suspend disbelief. With Allegiant and its predecessors, it’s impossible to escape the feeling you’re being sold something a bit fishy.
Overall Verdict: Anyone hoping The Divergent Series would pick up steam as it comes into the home stretch will be disappointed. However, with a premise with such weak foundations that the slightest tap would reveal the lack of logic behind everything, it’s been slightly hamstrung from the start.
Reviewer: Tim Isaac