Screen Gems review: "The Divergent Series: Allegiant"

Courtesy: Lionsgate

March 18, 2016
Studio: Lionsgate
Rated PG-13for intense violence and action, thematic elements, and some partial nudity

The third chapter of the "Divergent" series picks up right where part two left off. "Insurgent" revealed that the walled city of Chicago was really just a big experiment, where the faction system was developed to find those endowed with special abilities.

In "Allegiant," Tris (Shailene Woodley) and Four (Theo James) are in trouble. Deemed as traitors, they're in jail awaiting an uncertain fate. Fortunately, they manage to escape and decide to venture beyond the wall for the first time in their lives.

They have to go, because while the evil Jeanine (Kate Winslet) has been toppled, Four's mother Evelyn (Naomie Watts) has ascended to power armed with her own nefarious schemes.

Tris and Four are not alone. They're joined by her brother Caleb (Ansel Elgort), Christina (Zoe Kravitz), Tori (Maggie Q) and Peter (Miles Teller). But in the process of getting out from under Evelyn's thumb, they encounter a new, even more deadly threat.

Stumbling through the post-apocalyptic nightmarish landscape, the group is discovered by an organization called the Bureau of Genetic Warfare. Its leader is David (Jeff Daniels), and we soon find out he's not the benevolent benefactor he appears to be.

Under his direction, children are taken from their parents in the name of science, with David deciding who lives and who dies.

As we already know, Tris is very special. David has specific plans for her, forcing Tris to choose between his vision or a life with Four.

While this is going on outside the wall, on the inside Chicago is in chaos. Evelyn's forces are battling the new Allegiant faction, which is under the direction of Johanna (Octavia Spencer). Evelyn wants to control the city while Johanna fights for freedom.

Unfortunately, it may all be in vain if David is successful in completing his mission of repairing mankind's damaged gene pool and starting society all over again.

"Allegiant" suffers from yet another studio money grab. The final book in Veronica Roth's trilogy has been split into two parts, much like the final chapters in the "Harry Potter," "Twilight" and "Hunger Games" franchises. It results in drawn out story with no clear resolution.

And since the "Allegiant" book was written as a single story, there's no natural point for the filmmakers to stop the action. To increase the running time, we get some original elements which didn't exist in print and an artifical climax which solves nothing. The real ending won't take place until the next installment of the series, titled "Ascendant."

Woodley is a talented actress, but with the exception of a couple of thrilling action sequences, she spends most of the movie going through the motions. If Woodley appears bored and disinterested by what is going on, just imagine what it's like for the audience.

Being yet another entry in the Young Adult literature wars, there is really nothing special or unique about "Allegiant" which forces you to pay attention.

That's because we're watching a chosen one fight to overthrow an evil regime to allow peace and freedom to prevail.

Yeah, just like what happened in "Harry Potter." And "The Hunger Games." And "The Maze Runner." And "The Giver." And "The Mortal Instruments: City Of Bones." And "Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief." And "Eragon." And "Ender's Game" And "The Giver."

No wonder it all feels so famiiar.

A big problem with these franchises is what happens when an overriding plot element like kids killing kids, being trapped by a maze or living in a walled city with five distinct factions goes away?

In many instances, the authors find they don't have anywhere logical and interesting to go with their stories. They create endings which feel manufactured, unsatisfying and incomplete.

It's like doing a series of "Star Wars" films and doing away the Force in chapter three. Or continuing the "Star Trek" movies and getting rid of the U.S.S. Enterprise halfway through chapter two.

These stories are built on fundamental foundations which contain certain truths. When those truths are altered or removed in the name of plot advancement, the series has nothing left to build upon.

It happened to "The Hunger Games" with the less-than-satisfying "Mockingjay." It happened to "The Maze Runner" with the underwhelming "Scorch Trials." And it's happening againright before our eyes in "Allegiant." When you add the fact this is a bloated chapter packed with artificial filler, you get a very disappointing result.

On my rating scale "Allegiant" earns ONE DIAMOND. And this movie does not bode well for the climax of the series.

FOUR DIAMONDS=A fantastic movie! A must see!
THREE DIAMONDS=A good movie with minor flaws.
TWO DIAMONDS=An average movie with some entertaining scenes or performances.
ONE DIAMOND=A very poor movie with few entertaining scenes or performances.
LUMP OF COAL=Skip it, it's just plain awful.

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