There is something to be said for the third film in a franchise (based on three books) that can essentially reboot itself with the same characters. While the Divergent series wasn’t over, Insurgent did leave things in a curious position. Now we are getting more answers, but while Allegiant may be an improvement over the previous entry, its ideas and concepts are bleeding together with other stories of similar ilk.
Insurgent’s ending really shook things up, as supreme leaders were taken down and a huge reveal of what’s outside the wall was made. As a result, the film should be taking us to a new destination, but it is not that simple. Evelyn (brown-haired Naomi Watts) quickly asserts new-found power in a way that prevents the progress her rebel factions were trying to achieve in the eyes of Tris (Shailene Woodley) and Four (Theo James). As a result, these two, along with their usual cohorts scale the wall and escape to a new land where they find answers they’ve been looking for, whether they like it or not.
At the very least, Allegiant is more visually interesting than the Insurgent, but both films are suffering from overloading us with information that can be tough to keep track of in a cinematic landscape full of these YA novel adaptations. Now, I can’t criticize a movie for my own choice of not keeping a part of my mind dedicated to The Divergent Series, but I can call out a film that does little to hold my interest. Suffice it to say, Allegiant never ascends to greatness and not even this talented cast is up to the challenge of believing in what they are fighting for.
Woodley continues to work as a decent embodiment of the female hero that handles situations with enough cunning that positions her as more than just an action star. Tris aptly handles her conversations with Jeff Daniels’ character, David, for a majority of the film, with enough setup to bring this thing to a close next year. Meanwhile, James has grown into the role of looking gruff and face-punching anyone who seems like a threat. Zoe Kravitz is around not doing much in this film, while Ansel Elgort gets to play exposition/emotional burden for Tris.
Really, the most inspired element of this film is Miles Teller. Having already somewhat confessed his lack of enjoyment in being involved in a series like this, the antagonistic charm of his character feels rooted in disdain for being a part of these films to begin with. As a result, every action he takes seems enhanced by how little he cares. Honestly, that’s exactly what is needed for young Han Solo, but that’s a different discussion all together.
From a narrative standpoint, with the characters running from one soulless society to another, we are getting fairly repetitive in what The Divergent Series really has to offer. Sure, we’ve replaced trains, parkour and VR tests with flying cars, lots of red terrain and Agent Orange (you have to see it to believe it), but I can’t say the various revelations felt like fresh ones. Honestly, the most intriguing element is the fight going on against the Allegiant group, but we barely touch on it.
Watts and Octavia Spencer spend the film debating what the next steps should be, which leads to an eventual war between factions. This is an area that involves intelligent women discussing how to proceed in establishing their new world order and only so much time is spent on their internal debate, which takes the easy way out by resorting to violent threats and battles. That’s a bit of a letdown, especially considering how one-note Daniels and his society of ‘perfect until proven evil’ really are.
If anything, I could praise this series for the way it continues to handle violence. The first film was admirable for largely revolving around an underdog being trained to take on oppressors. It also had shootouts with guns, instead of fancy sci-fi weapons. The PG-13 rating means a lack of blood to really emphasize the consequences (a different discussion), but there’s something so visceral about seeing young adults fight back with actual guns.
It proves to amount to little though and I’m not sure if it’s the novels or the adaptation of such, but I largely found myself uninterested in how things were playing out. Certain characters met their fate in ways that felt perfunctory. Turns in the story were largely predictable. The romantic entanglement of the lead characters never feels in jeopardy. Even the action lacks spark beyond getting to see what a big budget looks like stretched thin when it comes to ambitious visual ideas.
Were the film better at having me invested in its core themes or better at letting me enjoy these characters, I could see a decent appeal. Allegiant may take a break from drab dystopia by changing things up a bit, but the conventional structure and lack of really anything else aside from Teller’s performance to keep me engaged has not done this series any favors. Of course, I have to be all in after now watching three out of four of these films, so we’ll see how this thing concludes next year.