November 18, 2017

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New Horizons, New Villains | “The Divergent Series: Allegiant” Movie Review

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Shailene Woodley in The Divergent Series: Allegiant (Photos: Murray Close)

Shailene Woodley, as Tris, in The Divergent Series: Allegiant (Photos: Murray Close)

After the world-building in the first two movies in “The Divergent Series,” based on Veronica Roth’s best-selling trilogy, the emphasis shifts toward straight-on action in Roth’s trilogy topper, Allegiant, now split into two parts—there’s certainly enough plot to go around. Fans will be able to keep up with the pace as the story line plows through intrigues and conspiracies, but those just now jumping into the saga will be left behind.

Tris (the cool, guarded, and blonder Shailene Woodley) escapes from a burned-out, crumbling Chicago to explore what life lies beyond the towering, electrified concrete wall that cordons off the city. Allegedly, it was built for the inhabitants’ protection. She assumes that whatever lies ahead has to be better than living through the civil war that has broken out in the city, now governed by mob rule. Tris is joined by her comrades-in-arms, including the dependable Christina (Zoë Kravitz), brother Caleb (Ansel Elgort), the snarky Peter (Miles Teller), and her boyfriend, Four (the glowering Theo James).

The actions sequences easily win the battle for viewers’ attention, the highlight of which occurs within the first 20 minutes: Tris and the gang scale a wall, running up a 90-degree angle and, once over the barrier and having dodged bullets, glide down a cliff. The group is soon surrounded by toxic cesspools in a red-dirt wasteland, called the Fringe. There, the refugees are rescued and taken to a sleek steel-and-glass metropolis with a spiraling skyline—think Abu Dhabi on steroids—and given shelter by the Bureau of Genetic Welfare, led by its all-powerful director, David (a very calm Jeff Daniels).

David has been monitoring Tris secretly for years; he supervised the genetic engineering of the population of Chicago. As in the other movies, the teen learns a secret: she’s Genetically Pure—and from here on wears all white. For David, she represents a new start, a means to wipe the slate clean, so to speak, given that his Chicago experiment has spectacularly gone off the rails. (The overall tone is more sci-fi than dystopian—Mad Max: Fury Road–lite.)

Theo James, as Four, and Shailene Woodley

Theo James, as Four, and Shailene Woodley

However, once Tris and her trio arrive at this too-good-to-be-true sanctuary, they are splintered off into their own subplot as David segregates Tris from the rest of her fellow Chicagoans, whom he deems genetically damaged. As a result, the film’s fractured focus undercuts the camaraderie found in the earlier movies.

Also, during her private facetime with David, Tris comes across as slower on her feet than in the books. She still outruns anyone and takes down men twice her size, in addition to figuring out how to fly aircraft on the spot, but somehow her analytical skills have softened, and she fails to question the information David spoon-feeds her. Why aren’t David and his council stopping the chaos in Chicago? This is among the myriad of mysteries that will pop up in the porous plot. (If Tris, or the audience, asks too many questions, the story would collapse.) Meanwhile, the isolated Tris is kept in the dark about the government’s intentions and away from the chaos, and so the sense of urgency wanes. In comparison, Four gets more action (fighting, that is).

Naomi Watts as Evelyn

Naomi Watts as Evelyn

No one in the A-list cast (such as Naomi Watts and Octavia Spencer) will put this film at the top of a resume. All exude low energy; some are more wooden than others. The plentiful exposition, filled with pregnant pauses, almost stops the movie in its tracks, with too much dialogue that states the obvious. It’s as though the cast deliberately refrains from going over the top, though the film could use a jolt of energy. The only exception to the laid-back vibe is Miles Teller as Peter, oozing with smarm.

Unlike the previous two films, part three is strictly for audiences who have seen the other installments in the series. It’s a long warm-up to the conclusion, Ascendant, which is set to arrive on June 9, 2017.

Directed by Robert Schwentke

120 min.

Rated PG-13

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Kent Turner About Kent Turner

Kent Turner (kturner@mediasourceinc.com) edits SLJ's DVD reviews and is the editor of Film-Forward.com

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Comments

  1. I was confused why Victoria Roth would allow her book to end in a way via the movie that was so different from the book. The whole jealousy angle of David and Natalie was omitted from the movie, but the biggest upset was that Tris didn’t die in the movie. While I typically want a feel good ending when I don’t already know what’s in store, when the book clearly shows that Tris gave the ultimate sacrifice for those she loves, to see the movie so blatantly ignore the author’s intent. floored me. Why was that allowed to happen. Audiences came to see Tris as one who would sacrifice for others despite the cost to herself. The movie really let me down, though of the three, the special effects of Alliigiant were the best of them all.

  2. Too much talking … I think this basically a transition movie for the last one. But the story is so true about human being. There is always something that we may not agree to no matter where we go.