Director: Robert Schwentke
Cast: Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Octavia Spencer, Naomi Watts, Jeff Daniels, Ray Stevenson, Zoë Kravitz, Miles Teller, Ansel Elgort, Maggie Q
Runtime: 2 hr 1 min
Rating: PG13 (Some Nudity and Violence)
Released By: Golden Village Pictures
Official Website: http://www.thedivergentseries.movie/
Opening Day: 17 March 2016
Synopsis: The third installment of the blockbuster Divergent series franchise, ALLEGIANT takes Tris [Shailene Woodley] and Four [Theo James] into a new world, far more dangerous than ever before. After the earth-shattering revelations of INSURGENT, Tris must escape with Four and go beyond the wall enclosing Chicago. For the first time ever, they will leave the only city and family they have ever known in order to find a peaceful solution for their embroiled city. Once outside, old discoveries are quickly rendered meaningless with the revelation of shocking new truths. Tris and Four must quickly decide who they can trust as a ruthless battle ignites beyond the walls of Chicago which threatens all of humanity. In order to survive, Tris will be forced to make impossible choices about courage, allegiance, sacrifice and love.
Like ‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows’, ‘The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn’ and ‘The Hunger Games: Mockingjay’, the third and last book of Veronica Roth’s ‘Divergent’ series has been split into two separate movies – so despite bearing the same name as the novel, ‘Allegiant’ is really just one half of its story, with the other half titled ‘Ascendant’ due out only next summer. As much as we’d like to believe that such decisions are driven purely by creative motivations, the latter two examples have undoubtedly reinforced cynicism that box-office dollar had something to do with it. The same can be said with ‘Allegiant’, especially for those who have read the book, since there is little reason why Roth’s prose should be told in two parts if ‘Insurgent’ and ‘Divergent’ could be done as one.
True enough, despite director Robert Schwentke’s attempt at keeping a breakneck pace, ‘Allegiant’ lacks a compelling story to justify its two-hour length, even as it takes some liberties with Roth’s prose that is bound to make some fans gasp in surprise. Now that the despotic ruler Jeanine (Kate Winslet) has been assassinated, the class system which separated individuals into five factions based on the personality traits bravery, honesty, intelligence, selflessness and friendliness has all but collapsed. In the ensuing power vaccum, the de-facto leader of the Factionless, Evelyn (Naomi Watts), wages civil war against the remnants of those who used to belong to the factions – so termed the Allegiant – who are now led by former Amity honcho Johanna (Octavia Spencer).
Meanwhile, Tris (Shailene Woodley) and her pals – among them her brother Caleb (Ansel Elgort), her frenemy Peter (Miles Teller) and her friend Christina (Zoë Kravitz) – manage to escape the fortified wall surrounding Chicago, where they discover a post-apocalyptic wasteland that is the result of genetic warfare and a nuclear holocaust. Basically, genetic experimentation by the Government to remove unwanted traits had left most of humanity ‘damaged’, which led to an experiment by the ‘genetically pure’ to dump some of the ‘damaged’ ones in a walled-in city and wait for natural selection to produce a healthy ‘pure’ individual – which, needless to say, so happens to be our female protagonist Tris.
Between the civil war of Chicago and her secret meetings with the Head of the Bureau of Genetic Welfare (Jeff Daniels), Tris finds her romance with Four (Theo James) increasingly strained as the latter becomes increasingly disillusioned with the intentions of the Bureau the deeper he digs. There is never any doubt that David will emerge as the villain of this picture, but more crucially, the trio of new writers – namely Noah Oppenheim, Adam Cooper and Bill Collage – inject just enough divergence into the telling of the story that you cannot help but wonder if they are ultimately gunning for a more fan-friendly ending than the one that provoked much divisiveness among readers. And yet because there is yet another film to fill, those looking for closure will inevitably be frustrated – not simply at having to wait another year but also because this one ends on a whimper rather than a cliffhanger.
More fundamentally, ‘Allegiant’ sidelines our ‘Katniss-like’ heroine Tris, who spends too much of her time in conversations with David that scream idiocy. In fact, the movie belongs instead to Four, who uncovers David’s nefarious intentions regarding a ‘memory serum’ and pretty much saves the day – and Tris as well from David’s sweet-talk. That is as much a function of Roth’s storytelling as a dearth of character development in the film, which favours run-of-the-mill action sequences next to CGI-heavy landscapes that look as if they were stolen from better sci-fi imaginings – David’s protected enclave at the former O’Hare airport looks like it were transplanted from ‘Oblivion’; the irradiated desert outside the walls of Chicago look like a cross between ‘The Martian’ and ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’; and even the blood-coloured acid rain that Tris encounter in the desert seems ripped from one of the arenas from ‘The Hunger Games’.
Amidst the derivativeness, Woodley tries hard to show that she is still just as involved in the franchise, but one gets the sense that she knows she has been given short shrift compared to Jennifer Lawrence in the far superior genre equivalent. Though she is probably a better actor than James, the latter easily upstages her here by having a lot more to do than look pretty like a chic-bourgeois bureaucrat. Even Teller, who has largely sat on the sidelines for the previous two instalments as the consistently unreliable Peter, is more memorable than Woodley thanks to random self-snarky touches of humour that he provides in an otherwise all-too serious enterprise.
Certainly, those who have seen the earlier two movies will probably sit through the last two instalments to find out how it all ends, but ‘Allegiant’ offers little reason in and of itself to pledge your allegiance to a series that has diverged from its themes of stereotypes and class warfare which made it intriguing in the first place. If it was always a poorer cousin to ‘The Hunger Games’, it has over the course of ‘Insurgent’ and now ‘Allegiant’ become an even more distant relative, and without being unfair to the final and concluding chapter of the film series due out next year, let’s just say that ‘Ascendant’ has an even more uphill climb if it aspires to end this dishwater dull YA-series on a high note.
(An unnecessary penultimate chapter that further confirms 'The Divergent Series' as derivative, middling and worse, dull)
Review by Gabriel Chong