The Divergent Series: Allegiant (PG-13)
Shailene Woodley’s Tris is still the one teen to unite them all in The Divergent Series: Allegiant, the third movie in a four-part saga about a teen girl who is leading a rebellion against a rigid social system.
No, not the one with Jennifer Lawrence, the other one. And there’s no maze or library of human emotion but it’s understandable if it all starts to blend together for you.
As we return to the world of factions and walls in dystopian Chicago, we pick up pretty much where the last movie left off, with Kate Winslet’s leader Jeanine dead and Tris’s boyfriend Four’s (Theo James) mom Evelyn (Naomi Watts) in charge. The people of Chicago are eager to go beyond the wall and find out about the rest of the world, including the people who created Chicago and the Factions many years ago as part of some experiment. But Evelyn thinks people should stay in the city — and sends her Factionless army to seal people in — and that now is a great time for some show trials.
Her people round up Erudites (members of the suit-wearing jerk faction) who used to work for Jeanine and start with the fake-y trials and summary executions based on the will of the mob. Now, after the authoritarianism of the Faction system, you’d think people would object a little more to this setup. And there is some objection, mostly from former Amity leader Johanna (Octavia Spencer), who eventually breaks away and forms her own group called the Allegiant. But most people seem to roll with it. Even Tris declines to take a stand — or at least it seems that way. But keeping to the corners and not getting involved turns out to be part of Tris’s plan to get her brother Caleb (Ansel Elgort) out of mob rule jail.
Now just as much a fugitive from the new Factionless society as she was from Jeanine’s Factions, Tris and a small group of her Dauntless (the badass faction) buddies, plus her brother, escape into the world beyond the wall. Eventually, the group meets David (Jeff Daniels), who runs a laboratory/military operation/obvious sinister thing at O’Hare airport. He tells Tris that not only is she Divergent, she’s Pure and that Purity is going to help her help him save humanity.
If all of this sounds like confusing nonsense, then this is not your movie! Even more than previous Divergent movies, Allegiant is awash in mythology gobbledegook. We learn more of humanity’s backstory — something about genetic fiddling that led to unrest and I guess nuclear war. Now, the O’Hare group is working to fix the messed up DNA of most humans something something experiment, which is why the walled city of Chicago and its faction system were created. As with The Maze Runner, the normal way of “doing science” in a lab with monkeys until you get a vaccine or whatever is somehow deemed less effective than the creation of a new society complete with snazzy outfits and a bunch of rules. The movie is never able to explain its world in anything like a logical way, with every revelation bringing up new plot holes. This is exhausting and the only way a movie could overcome this much story quagmire is with really solid, engaging characters.
Unfortunately, Allegiant has none of those.
Tris and Four aren’t interesting characters — not individually and not together. Four might be a muscly butt-kicking machine, but he seems like a robot who is powered down in between action scenes. Likewise Tris seems no savvier than she was at the beginning of the first movie. Woodley gives her none of the intensity that made Lawrence’s Katniss such a compelling character long after I stopped caring about the overall story of The Hunger Games. Instead, we have a character who acts as though she knows what’s up but blindly believes everyone all the time. Katniss’ constant mistrust of everybody made sense and seemed like a normal human reaction to growing up in an authoritarian society.
The only person who has normal human reactions to anything is Peter, Miles Teller’s character. Peter is a bit of a problem for the movie. His character is the only one with really clear goals — self-preservation and finding a way to rise of the top of whatever society he’s in. He’s a bit of a villain, willing to work with whomever to get himself the better job and the cooler uniform, but he’s also the guy with the best lines. He’s fun but he’s a good two steps away from the movie’s central personal relationships. Not sure what his part in the book is, but in the movie he really isn’t needed by the story. I suspect the people who need him most are the writers, who get to have their only real fun when they write for him.
One tertiary character is not enough to save this franchise, which had the misfortune of feeling like a lesser version of better sagas when it started and has only managed to get weaker with each entry. C-
Rated PG-13 for intense action and violence, thematic elements, and some partial nudity. Directed by Robert Schwentke with a screenplay by Noah Oppenheim and Adam Cooper & Bill Collage (from the book by Veronica Roth), Allegiant is two hours and one minute long and distributed by Lionsgate.