I feel like a broken record repeating over and over how bland the young adult novel adaptation franchises are but then another one gets released and I have to keep raising my opinion that there is little to no life in these types of movies. Arguably, the best, and I use that term loosely, is now behind us. The Hunger Games series had the most going for it and was pretty instrumental for a lot of Jennifer Lawrence’s success. Now we get the third film in the Divergent series, the first half of the final installment, and Shailene Woodley is still trying to hit that Lawrence/Katniss level and failing, not just by inches, but by miles. She may be a good actress outside of these films but this Tris character is as lackluster as everything in this series.
Now, I may be a little hard on Allegiant, as it is the best in the series so far but that doesn’t stop it from really having the most lackluster and formulaic basic storyline that has bored audiences for over six hours of film. Woodley’s pairing with her morose and wooden co-star Theo James has made these films about as interesting and satisfying as bleached toast, which begs the question of why we have this franchise? I have never come across anyone who is a fan of the books let alone the movies and have failed to even hear anyone say “oh boy, I can’t wait for the next Divergent movie!” Still, Lionsgate continues to make them, in hopes of a Twilight or Hunger Games like box office explosion which seems heavily unlikely.
Allegiant picks up right after Insurgent after the take over of Chicago from the Erudite and their leader Jeanine (Kate Winslet). The Factionless has now taken over and their leader and Four’s (James) mother Evelyn (Naomi Watts) has executed Jeanine and is ruthlessly eradicating everyone involved with her leadership. This causes a problem with the Amity faction and their leader Johanna (Octavia Spencer) and it also drives Tris and Four to flee Chicago to see what lies beyond the wall surrounding the city. They are accompanied by Tris’s brother Caleb (Ansel Elgort) who betrayed her in Insurgent, Christina (Zoe Kravitz) and Peter (Miles Teller), who’s allegiance goes with wherever his ambition lies. I swear, Teller plays himself essentially, a sarcastic douchebag.
Once on the outside, the group is picked up by a military force working for a governing body called the Pure, who have been watching the events in Chicago as a sort of experiment to see how the factions work together. Their leader David (Jeff Daniels) latches onto Tris, claiming that she is the one person that can save the entire world. Once Tris gets wind of the continual growing unrest in Chicago and the impending civil war about to come to a head, David begins to put roadblocks in her way, citing a mysterious council who holds sway over what he can or can not do for the city. The questioning of David’s true intentions start to become obvious as really any authority figure in this entire franchise is out for their own personal glory it seems. That’s a great message for tweens, right? Don’t trust anyone.
Where Allegiant succeeds in it’s limited places over it’s predecessors is by actually giving us some decent action pieces peppered throughout the film. Where Divergent is a slow and drab film and Insurgent has glimmers of visually interesting pieces, this third film actually gets you slightly interested with some dazzling sequences and then lets all the wind out of its sails with more of the same dragging romance structure and lame exposition. It was evident early on in this series that the main story really isn’t that deep. It’s all just a substitute for districts versus the capitol or vampires versus werewolves, this just being Tris versus the establishment.
There’s also this annoying trend of turning the last books in these tween novel series into two films and, from what I’ve read, this one is probably the most stretching of that already frustrating producer choice. Apparently, Allegiant contains almost all of the story of the final book and this last movie will most likely be a two hour or more wrap up of this world that seems like a wholly unnecessary waste of time but, hell, we’ve already put a lot of time into this already so why not? You’d think being this far into the series there’d be some attachment to these characters but they’re all such one dimensional cliches that it’s hard to take any of them seriously.
The other worrisome thing to mention about this final movie to come is that director Robert Schwentke, who did this film as well as Insurgent, won’t be returning to do the final installment, which, like I said, is part of the same book. According to the press release, Schwentke wanted to do something other than this series, apparently being just as bored with it as we are. It must be very hard to make all of this look exciting and original, the latter of which is missing entirely. Instead, we get The Age Of Adaline director Lee Toland Krieger coming in to clean out Divergent’s locker and call it a series. Or at least I hope so.
As much as I cry for these vapid franchises to come to an end, I know they won’t. The teen target audience is just too lucrative to pass up and these films pave the future of what project will be made for these seventy to over a hundred million dollar productions, which is both terrifying and deeply saddening. How many great projects were passed over so that Insurgent could have one hundred and ten million dollars to make a mediocre movie? These are the things that not quite literally keep me up at night. I’ll say it: films like these are killing originality every time they get a greenlight. It’s up to the audience to make the studio realize their mistakes. Allegiant is a one and a half out of five.