The Divergent Series: Allegiant
Director: Robert Schwentke
Stars: Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Jeff Daniels
Duration: 120 mins
KRS Releasing Ltd
I am assuming that if you are reading this, you have seen the first two instalments of the Divergent Trilogy; so I won’t waste time (and words) on a too-detailed explanation as to what has gone before – suffice it to say that you should be warned that Part III not only fails to answer the many questions thrown up by its predecessors but throws in a few more with little resolution and much confusion.
The final act of Part II, Insurgent, promised to take the action away from the claustrophobic society within a futuristic Chicago’s walls populated by diverse factions. I’ll allow a quick reminder: they are Abnegation (the selfless, caring ones), Amity (the peaceful ones), Candor (the honest ones), Dauntless (the brave ones) and Erudite (the intelligent ones) to which we can add the Divergents themselves (those of undetermined faction) and the Factionless (self-explanatory).
Divergent: Allegiant makes good on that promise, much of the action taking place outside the city’s walls, as protagonists Tris (Shailene Woodley), Four (Theo James), Peter (Miles Teller), Caleb (Ansel Elgort), Christina (Zoë Kravitz), and Tori (Maggie Q) finally escape Chicago to discover the toxic wasteland known as the Fringe, and beyond that, the high-tech compound which houses the so-called Bureau of Genetic Welfare run by the charismatic yet wholly untrustworthy David (Jeff Daniels).
Having the action move away from the confines of the city walls did little to open up the story further, however. It only served to bring in some long-winded plotline about genetic experiments and pitting genetically-damaged humans against the genetically pure ones, with some nonsense about a memory-erasing gas thrown in for good measure. I will resist a jibe about erasing memories, for this is a film that is certainly forgettable, for the plot has become so convoluted it is difficult to keep up, making it rather easy to lose interest.
Not even Woodley, an actor of great talent who has the capacity of doing much better, can save the film from being the plodding mess it is
This is a shame for the subject of the different factions was always a fascinating one – the question of separating human beings according to traits of gender, race, religion and more is one issue that has plagued mankind throughout history – but in this world, the story and characters built around it were never given the requisite depth, bogged down as they were by admittedly eye-catching production design (repeated here) and plenty of kinetic action.
It was bound to happen at some point. That the stories of futuristic dystopian worlds so widespread in young adult literature and cinema would eventually run out of steam, with this third instalment if not actually hammering the final nail into the coffin, at least preparing the tools. I am thinking of ways to avoid comparisons to the Hunger Games franchise, but there is no avoiding it. The latter ended its remarkable run of four movies with the same fire that fuelled the first; sadly for the Divergent Series, it shot out of the blocks at a sluggish pace from the outset, with Part II doing little to increase that pace while this latest simply to lags and barring some major improvement in storytelling and characterisation, the most 2017’s concluding chapter can do is limp to the finishing line.
One of the series’ principal faults is that its characters have little depth, and over the three films to date we have witnessed little in terms of development and for the first time not even Woodley, an actor of great talent who has the capacity of doing much better, can save the film from being the plodding mess it is.
This is compounded by the fact she is given much less to work with than in the previous two instalments, almost taking a backseat to the hunky, broody Four who gets the lion’s share of the action; while the lazy characterisation is most evident in Teller’s Peter, who switches allegiances at such a frenetic pace as to cause whiplash.
The older characters do not fare much better. Watts’ Evelyn showed promise at the end of Part II, yet, having seemingly transformed from rebel freedom fighter to tyrannical leader in between the closing credits of the last film and the opening of this one – unless I missed something somewhere – she does little more than oversee violent mob trials and dispense justice with glee.
Jeff Daniels’ smooth David, replacing Kate Winslet’s effectively menacing Jeanine, is not terribly effective as the new antagonist, while the Allegiant rebel forces led by Johanna (Octavia Spencer) have so little screen time as to barely register, making you wonder why the film bears their name.