Divergent: Allegiant – Exercise Avoidance
The Divergent Series: Allegiant
Brodie's Grade: D-
Director: Robert Schwetnke
Writer: Noah Oppenheim and Adam Cooper & Bill Collage
Starring: Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Jeff Daniels, Naomi Watts and Miles Teller
Is there a film franchise that took a harder nose-dive in quality faster than The Divergent Series? I'm hard pressed to think of one outside of The Matrix at the turn of the century, but that's giving Divergent, the first film, far too much credit. Divergent started things off on a very mediocre note, and the best thing that can be said is that they're a rather imaginative compendium of other, much better book/film franchises.
There's a decent film somewhere in the first one, but it gets lost by the filmmaker's attempts to mask how much they Frankensteined the film together from better pieces of previous YA literature. Immediately my mind goes to The Hunger Games and Maze Runner, both of which, as book franchises, beat Divergent to the shelves by a few years. Then the obvious riffs on Harry Potter and The Matrix, with just a dash of the granddaddy of all YA post-apocalyptic utopia/dystopia literature, The Giver. In this instance, Allegiant owes much of its existence to Maze Runner (which are far better films).
I don't know if it's the writing or star Shailene Woodley's acting or even the source material (I haven't read the books), but Tris is just a complete waste of energy in the movies. She's negative energy. The film comes to a screeching halt when she shows up. That's a bad spot to be in when she's the primary character.
Tris isn't the only character the filmmakers can't find a voice for. Peter (Miles Teller) goes back and forth between unlikable and... no, I guess they did find a voice for him. He's just unlikable. But they keep trying to push a redemption sub-plot on him. Like, "Yeah, we know he's annoying, but now he'll do a thing that will get you on his side." Then he goes and does another thing that washes it all away. That's his character M.O. He never learns. His peers never learn. It's some of the worst character development I've ever seen. It would be easier to overlook if they kept it confined to just Peter, but it unfortunately spread to the everyone else.
The other problem they face is they can't really lock onto a good villain. Hunger Games had President Snow, Harry Potter had Voldemort, Maze Runner has the aptly named WICKED. All people we could rally around in a collective dislike for. Allegiant is a continuation of wasting good actors in bland villainous roles. Kate Winslet as Janine in the first two was the closest they came to a great villain, but the conquering of her felt too flat. Especially by replacing her with Naomi Watts who was supposed to be good, then was bad, but we've got a better villain now with Jeff Daniels, so let's forget about her and her redemption story is inconsequential to anything.
In what is definitely a fault of the writing, they can't seem to get a coherent, exciting story together long enough to justify the film's 2 hour run time, let alone splitting the single final book off into two films. Yes, we'll have to deal with this all again one more time next year. The problem they're facing is that they can't let the socio-political metaphors evolve through the story organically. They awkwardly shoe-horn it in, with Tris giving an impassioned monologue at the half-way point of Allegiant that is less an impassioned monologue and more a clobbering over the head with a large paper-weight.
Ultimately the truly aggravating thing is that while all the terrible, contrived writing and acting is going on around him, they've actually got a really good sci-fi/action film off to the side with Four (Theo James). He'll burst onto the scene with a jolt of electricity to remind you that there's a good movie buried deep within the film we're given, but it just enrages you further that it's not the film we're allowed to watch and enjoy. His side story is what ultimately saves the film from being an utter disaster. It makes me wonder if it's too late to make Four the focus and follow that story.
Allegiant is doing everything they can to make you wish you never invested time and energy in the first one. As I like to see things through to the end, I hate that I got set down this path by the first one, because I can't wait to be done with it.
I can't recommend Allegiant to anyone besides the most hardcore fans of the book series. At best, you're better off waiting until it shows up on cable, because then you can at least switch over to a Law & Order marathon and not feel like you just wasted money on it. This is a Definite Avoid.