Release date: March 18, 2016
Studio: Summit Entertainment (Lionsgate)
Director: Robert Schwentke
Rating: PG-13 (for intense violence and action, thematic elements, and some partial nudity)
Screenwriters: Noah Oppenheim, Adam Cooper, Bill Collage , Stephen Chbosky
Starring: Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Octavia Spencer, Naomi Watts, Jeff Daniels, Ray Stevenson, Zoe Kravitz, Miles Teller, Ansel Elgort, Maggie Q, Keiynan Lonsdale, Jonny Weston, Mekhi Phifer, Daniel Dae Kim, Nadia Hilker, Bill Skarsgård
Genre: Action, Adventure
3 Books 4 movies. A familiar recipe these days. Inevitably Hollywood stretches out the payday by stretching out the life span of popular franchises, making 2 films when 1 would suffice. And there are times when this reviewer, loves that! More time with the beloved characters I’ve lived with first on the page and now on the screen? Sign me up! But this strategy may backfire for Allegiant and the Divergent Film Franchise.
Allegiant Alienates. In the previous films, “Divergent” & “Insurgent”, the viewer could find someway to relate to the characters and therefore feel invested in their journey. At the heart of the previous films was a coming of age story about a young woman’s journey to self discovery while navigating her way through the complication’s of life’s social contracts: family, friendship, and faction! All while battling a clear enemy, amidst an action filled, science-fiction dystopian backdrop. And backdrop may be the key word. In Allegiant the “world beyond the wall” and the film’s “big ideas” overshadow the characters and any personal story that could entice the viewer to care about their journey. What Allegiant lacks in character and relationship development it attempts to make up in heavy-handed special effects. The special effects previously used in the series always seemed properly motivated. For instance, the characters were in a simulation and special effects seamlessly transitioned the viewer into that nightmarish simulation where the line between reality and illusion blurred. Or there were the little touches here and there to visually signal to the viewer that the world the characters live in is the same world we do, just many years in the future. Instead, the special effects in Allegiant depict a world that looks nothing like our own. Whether it’s David’s office at the Bureau or a radioactive wasteland. much of the film looks like it came right out of a computer, which further removes the viewer in my opinion.
Without the enjoyable distraction of rich interpersonal character relationships, the viewer quickly becomes all too aware of the story’s shortcomings. Not only did the long standing character relationships suffer, but the new characters introduced in Allegiant, like Matthew and Nita, come and go without consequence. We know nothing about them other than that they seem to conveniently fulfill plot needs. Ultimately, the attempted sucker punch storyline – that of the Tris-Four relationship – puts entirely too much pressure upon the importance of a lovers spat. From the first signs of trouble in the Tris-Four relationship the viewer knows that it’s a rough patch and that the couple will get through it. The stakes are low, and there is no sense of relief when the couple finally reunites. The characters and the audience alike go through the motions, wading our way through the inevitable. Even the “big idea” of the film, to accept and embrace one another’s differences, while noble, ends up feeling hollow.
Sadly I could not suspend my belief enough to buy into Allegiant. Our heroes may have scaled the giant wall at the start of the film, but for the better part of 120 minutes I still felt like I was on an uphill climb without reprieve. On the upside, I trust that the final installment of the series, Ascendant, will return some of the heart that was lost in Allegiant.