When the first film in the Divergent series came out it was pretty obvious what was going on. Lionsgate wanted a Hunger Games so they found a young adult series with a post-apocalyptic setting and cast an up-and-coming starlet. Then they made a middling film and then another middling film and made a bit of money off it, but no one got that excited. Honestly, the things felt kind of budget and I’m pretty sure enthusiasm over them has only waned, but here we are with a third installment leading into the fourth one.
So, is there any reason to get into this franchise after years of ignoring it as most people have done? Only if you want to see what happens when a mediocre franchise runs into a terrible conclusion.
The Divergent Series: Allegiant – Part 1
Director: Robert Schwentke
Release Date: March 18, 2016
In the interest of being open I did not see the second film in the series, Insurgence. Evidently nothing really important happened in it since I could easily pick up from where I’d left off after seeing the first one. The bad guys were defeated leaving divergents Tris (Shailene Woodley) and boyfriend Four (Theo James) victorious. Her brother Caleb (Ansel Elgort) is captured and comic relief Peter (Miles Teller) is running around being snarky. Tris wants to escape the walled off Chicago for the outside world as it has been revealed that their entire lives were an experiment to make divergents. However, the city gets locked down as the internal struggles start a civil war. That leads Tris and the rest of the cast to escape the city and find the lab that watches over the experiment and its director David (Jeff Daniels). From here a post-apocalyptic plot of epic stupidity unfolds, every turn making less sense than the next.
Those that have read the book series say that it begins to get truly bad in the third book where it appears that the author really didn’t know where she was going with the story. That seems blatantly clear from the film too as much of the plot’s key point rely on twists and turns that make no sense or feel forced. Bad guys doing illogical things is a key staple of what bad guys do in movies, but in this case the bad guys aren’t just illogical, but incompetent. Time and time again decisions are made that only serve as plot devices so the good guys can win, but make no sense in the world around them. It’s bad plotting, bad world creation and bad movie making.
Speaking of bad film making, the cheapness continues to prevail in this series. Whether it’s the special effects or what seem to be some of the worst extras ever caught on screen the movie feels budget in every aspect. Green screens often look like they simply hung a sheet up in the background and projected the image behind the actor. There’s shots that look like the digital effects people just gave up halfway through. An early explosion looks like something you’d see in a SyFy made-for-TV movie, not a movie trying to be a blockbuster franchise. The end result is a film that feels cheap.
Director Robert Schwenke doesn’t do anything to ease this feeling. His direction is blunt, crude and cliche all while lacking any ability to tie a scene together. It would be harmless at the very least, but there are times where it is so poor that it actually made the audience laugh. He’s working with a dramaless plot, but that still doesn’t excuse his inability to raise the heart rate during action sequences. He has a cast made up of some of Hollywood’s most talented youngsters and he can’t do anything with them.
Not that any of them seem to be trying. The overall tone of every performance seems to be regret. When this series started all these actors were still trying to make a mark, but now the majority of them are far too good to be showing up in a budget sci-fi movie like this. Teller feels especially lackadaisical throughout the film while Elgory appears to be searching for the nearest exit for most of the movie. The only person who didn’t seem to get the memo about not caring is Daniels, but unfortunately the screenplay gives him next to nothing to work with.
Allegiant is exactly what you get when you try to copy and paste a formula that succeeded elsewhere. It’s cheap and lackluster, and it’s hard to imagine what another entire film is even going to be about or why anyone would want to see it after sitting through this one.