UK Release Date: 11th March 2016
Runtime: 121 minutes
Director: Robert Schwentke
Writer: Noah Oppenheim, Adam Cooper, Bill Collage
Starring: Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Miles Teller, Ansel Elgort, Jeff Daniels, Zoë Kravitz, Naomi Watts, Octavia Spencer
Synopsis: After fleeing the confines of Chicago, our heroes must struggle to deal with a whole new world in the irradiated wasteland on the other side of the wall.
Divergent was a good movie. Its sequel, Insurgent, was only okay. Forever in the shadow of The Hunger Games, the Divergent series is not a franchise that has ever been truly memorable. Now, though, it stands more or less alone in the young adult world, with most of the major franchises having come to an end. True to the steadily declining quality of the series, though, Allegiant is a little bit rubbish.
Tris (Shailene Woodley), having shattered the illusion that the residents of Chicago are alone in the world, plots to escape the city with Four (Theo James). Four’s mother Evelyn (Naomi Watts) has assumed control and is staging show trials and executions. Despite her best efforts, the duo escape the walls with Peter (Miles Teller), Caleb (Ansel Elgort) and Christina (Zoë Kravitz) in tow. They soon encounter David (Jeff Daniels) – the mastermind of the Chicago experiment.
The problem that Allegiant has is that, in adapting only the first half of Suzanne Collins’ final book, it is saddled with pages and pages of exposition with little in the way of action pay-off at the end. Whole swathes of time pass by in which it seems as if Jeff Daniels’ character has just been given a copy of the book to read out, rather than an actual script.
You want change without sacrifice. You want peace without struggle. The world doesn’t work that way.
It is this that proves to be Allegiant‘s undoing, rendering the film thuddingly dull from start to finish. These are stories that are focused entirely on their plot revelations, often at the expense of actually developing the characters beyond their standard young adult archetypes – “chosen one” protagonist, brooding hunk, double-crossing friend, etc. This was enough to sustain one film, and potentially two, but by the third one, it’s testing the audience’s patience a little too much.
Shailene Woodley, who is consistently the best thing in the franchise, is sidelined throughout Allegiant. She is a tremendous actress, but here finds herself standing next to Jeff Daniels while he drones on, explaining the plot for two hours. Meanwhile, Theo James gets the chance to go and explore the world, uncovering the biggest secrets the film is able to reveal. Unfortunately, James is a standard issue brooding man and hasn’t really been interesting since he got a noseful of shit in The Inbetweeners Movie.
The trend of splitting the final book in a young adult series in half to extend the film franchise has rarely felt more irritating than it does with Allegiant. It’s not as much a case of this film being all setup, but that there just isn’t anything interesting left in this half of the story and, as a result, the pacing is absolutely all over the place. Like The Hobbit trilogy, just about every scene in Allegiant feels artificially stretched and extended to eke the maximum screen time from the story.
Everyone is worth saving.
It’s difficult to get too angry about Allegiant because it leaves so little impact when the credits roll. These are not characters that anyone cares about and all of the constant talking in this film means that there isn’t a single exposition stone left unturned. On the basis of Allegiant, it seems likely that the final entry in the franchise – Ascendant – will be more of an endurance challenge than a fun action movie.
Pop or Poop?
As the young adult wave melts away, there’s a clear sense that the Divergent franchise is merely being shepherded to its conclusion with the minimum expenditure of creative effort. Shailene Woodley has outgrown the series and the supporting characters are completely under-served by a script that is totally out of ideas.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.