The Divergent Series: Allegiant
Robert Schwentke’s The Divergent Series: Allegiant is the third of four films in this series that thinly differs from The Hunger Games.
This outing gives viewers their first taste of life outside the dystopian Chicago as Tris (Shailene Woodley), Four (Theo James), Peter (Miles Teller), Christina (Zoë Kravitz) and Caleb (Ansel Elgort) find themselves outside outside their walled off city and inside the settlement run by the Bureau of Genetic Welfare.
From here ideas are tossed around like the dangers of genetic modification, the lack of fairness associated with social classes and a government having control over everything. These are all great ideas but the scrip basically waves at them on the way past without going into any depth as to what this could mean for a society. Jeff Daniels’ David represents the government as a corporation idea and he does a great job of juggling the idea of a politician also being a businessman. He is able to suggest sincerity by peddling a bunch of easy answers and quick fixes that don’t hold up under the barest scrutiny. It’s clear very early on that he is a man not to be trusted yet Daniels brings so much charisma to the part that it feels easier to go along with what he’s saying.
Tris is supposed to be initially won over by his promises and all his talk of her being the purest of the pure makes her seem like the only person that matters in the world. Again, just as a politician would. The issue is that Tris comes across as really naive for buying all of this at face value. She hasn’t been a well developed character in this series so far but at least having her own mind is something that could be said of her. I’m all for her buying into it but the film should have done more work to make the position convincing enough to win her over.
Woodley is strangely underused in this film despite the fact that Tris is supposed to be the protagonist. She is very capable in the action scenes and her performance is so far above what this material serves. Hopefully when she’s done with this series she can be cast in other action adventure roles as this suits her really well. She has a great presence on screen and always appears likeable even when spouting some really awful dialogue.
Most of the action work is handled by Theo James’ stuntman as Four who sees something wrong with this setup right away and goes about tearing it apart. My lack of engagement with the whole concept shows when I question the fact that there happens to be all this advanced surveillance equipment around yet not a single security camera. Four’s entire campaign could have been stopped if someone had simply been watching his movements. Considering surveillance is a big part of the film this really stands out.
In general the rest of the narrative is as unfocused as this with lots of talk of the troubles going on in Chicago without actually showing it to any significant degree. There are some scenes where Naomi Watts tries to pretend she is in charge and fighting to stay that way but they come and go so quickly that they don’t really work. Instead of holding the entire plot together like it should the Chicago elements are just part of the white noise that makes up the overstuffed and underdeveloped plot.
The world that has been built is still really stupid and the story really strains credibility even for science fiction but I would say that this is the best of the series so far. Admittedly that’s not the highest of praise but I felt that the whole thing was reasonably well paced and there was some interesting design work in there. The Bureau Headquarters being in the shape of a DNA Helix was an interesting choice and looked good despite the fairly dodgy CGI. There are a couple of tense action sequences near the beginning when the characters are in the orange coloured wasteland so it’s not entirely a chore to sit through like the other two in the series were.
I was under the impression that this was to be the last in the series which left me wondering why the ending feels so unfinished. It turns out that the final installment Ascendant is due out next year which explains why the ending feels so open. I doubt there’s enough material left to fill an entire film but I imagine I’ll find out next year if only to get a sense of closure on the franchise since I’ve seen it all. The increase in quality here suggests that the next installment will also be watchable but only time will tell.
Surprisingly watchable in places and a definite improvement on the other two installments. I doubt that accolade is going to appear on the Blu Ray cover when that comes out but it’s more positive than I expected. Shailene Woodley delivers a better performance than the material suggests and the narrative is actually fairly well paced. The concept is still ridiculous and fails to tap into any of the ideas that are mentioned but it could have been a lot worse.
- Shailene Woodley’s ability to elevate the material
- solid pacing throughout and some competent action sequences
- Jeff Daniels politician/businessman villain
- the undeveloped ideas
- Shailene Woodley being massively underused
- some good ideas that are completely undeveloped