Dog’s Movie House: “Allegiant” Fails To Find Any!
Howdy Folks! It’s The Kendog!
I have to say that I’m not a big fan of the Divergent series of films. It always came off as sort of a Hunger Games-light both in terms of scope and execution. That said, this series has its fans and the first two films in the series, “Divergent” and “Insurgent” were solid if unremarkable pieces of dystopian science fiction cinema. Unfortunately, “Allegiant” the third in a four film series, does nothing to distinguish itself as anything but a pretty placeholder for a story that continues to become more formulaic with each installment.
“Allegiant” picks up shortly after the events of “Insurgent” with Janine (Kate Winslet) dead and the faction system abolished. Tris (Shailene Woodley) and Four (Theo James) want to see what’s beyond the wall of Chicago, but the leader of the rebellion and Four’s mother Evelyn (Naomi Watts) is more interested in punishing the old guard and rebuilding Chicago. Tris and Four disobey Evelyn’s orders and with the aid of a small group of confederates (including Miles Teller’s Peter, Ansel Elgort’s Caleb, and Zoe Kravitz’s Christina), venture beyond the wall into the cursed desert, where they find the people responsible for the “great experiment” on Chicago. These people are led by David (Jeff Daniels), a geneticist trying to use the human genome to undo all the damage done in the past. Of course David is not telling Tris everything and the would-be saviors of the human race are not all they appear to be, leading Tris and Four to discover just who the real enemy is.
And therein lies the primary problem with “Allegiant.” The moment David’s army shows up in the desert proclaiming our heroes “safe,” you automatically know Tris and her friends are anything but. Every beat in the story is one we’ve danced to several times before and the tune isn’t particularly interesting. The script (by Noah Oppenheim, Adam Cooper, and Bill Collage from Veronica Roth’s novel) is much more interested in visual details than telling a coherent story or developing interesting characters, and to be fair, “Allegiant” is much more visually stimulating than its predecessors. Part of that has to do with extending the setting out of Chicago and into the barren wasteland in the great beyond. Returning director Robert Schwentke and his scenarists throw in several interesting visual details like the targeting drones that serve as shields, the crablike ships that serve as both transportation and assault vehicles, and the gleaming spires that serve as the headquarters for David’s army of genetic scientists.
The trouble is that when you look beyond the shiny coat of cinematic paint there isn’t much substance underneath. There is literally nothing that makes “Allegiant” any more than a less accomplished version of The Hunger Games. In fact, the one thing that made the Divergent series different (the faction system) has been completely eliminated by the time this film rolls around, so what you’re left with is another YA franchise that feels completely redundant and overdone. And since this film is just a set up for another film, there are very little in the way of stakes. Aside from Tris and Four, the characters are so thinly drawn that they elicit very little in the way of audience sympathy. I simply didn’t care about the fates of any of the players in the film.
The performances are serviceable, if not exceptional. Woodley is a fine actress in other roles but she lacks the physical presence of, say, a Jennifer Lawrence to be believable in the role of otherworldly ass-kicker. She comes off as too frail to save herself, let alone the entire word. Theo James is fine as Four, although the romantic asides with Tris in the middle of chaos come off as silly rather than emotional. He is a decent physical presence, however, and his action scenes are among the best in the film. The rest of the cast does serviceable work in underwritten roles. Jeff Daniels is good as always, but the script makes David so underwhelming that his eventual reveal is equally underwhelming. Octavia Spencer has some nice moments as Johanna, the leader of the new Allegiant faction opposing Evelyn’s new order and Watts is appropriate conflicted as the latter, although her character does some stupid things during the film’s climax in order to move the plot along. Miles Teller’s Peter is probably the most entertaining character of the bunch, simply because his character knows how much of prick he is. Most of the admittedly infrequent laughs in the film come from Peter. It doesn’t save the movie, but the film does pick up when Teller is onscreen.
The effects are decent, but not great, and the action sequences are serviceable, but again, not great. Are you sensing a theme here? Fans of the franchise will probably enjoy this entry, but everyone else should probably stay away. As for the fourth film in the series, one hopes that the filmmakers learn from their mistakes and do something really jaw-dropping for the finale. 2 Out Of 5 On Kendog’s Barkometer! So Sayeth The Kendog!
“The Divergent Series: Allegiant” is Rated PG-13 for intense violence and action, thematic elements, and some partial nudity.