Now that the Hunger Games movies have wrapped, it seems like the YA literature-adapted movie movement is starting to lose quite a bit of momentum. The 5th Wave, the former attempt to keep the YA pot sweet this year, was a pretty big flop, even when releasing in January, and things don’t look any better for The Divergent Series: Allegiant since it recently hit theatres. After Divergent and The Divergent Series: Insurgent managed at least decent box office intakes, if not great ones, Allegiant was a genuine bomb, especially domestically here in the Americas, which seems to prove once and for all that nobody cares about this franchise anymore. That certainly doesn’t bode well for the fourth and final movie that’s yet to come.
The real damning thing about Allegiant however, even beyond its pretty unfortunate box office numbers, is that it somehow manages to be even worse than its rather sub-par predecessor! Even if Harry Potter and The Hunger Games managed to find enough justification in splitting their final books into two separate movies, Allegiant absolutely does not, and much like The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn before it, there is absolutely zero reason for the Allegiant book to be split into two movies, beyond simple studio greed!
That’s merely the first in a long list of problems with Allegiant though, which takes the cake as the most dull, uninspired and idiotic movie of the three so far. This is very evidently the point where this franchise has plain and simply given up. The actors are no longer trying, the director no longer seems to have any clear vision for the movie, and despite some reasonably pretty visuals, which also thankfully make a return from Insurgent, Allegiant just feels heartless and brainless to the extreme.
As with the previous two movies, if you loved the books that inspired these movies, then maybe you’ll find a few ways to enjoy Allegiant. For the most part though, it’s another thankless and pointless YA movie that should be avoided, as it will completely waste your time, and fail to present you with any content that’s new or worthwhile.
Allegiant continues the adventures of Tris, Four and the rest, as the Erudite revolt has been stopped, Jeanine is dead, and now Evelyn, Four’s mother, is enacting a hostile takeover of the factions. Yes, another one. Being the adolescent idiots that they are, Tris and co. decide to rebel, again, this time going to the outer lands beyond the wall, and seeing what’s beyond the post-apocalyptic world of the ruined, faction-filled Chicago.
As far as changing gears for the third and final installment in a trilogy goes, this isn’t a terrible idea, though Allegiant does virtually nothing with it on the big screen. In many cases, this is most apparent with the characters, and even the actors themselves, who are given almost no direction, and simply do as the script demands. Despite starting off as a semi-interesting accidental hero, if also a bit of a Katniss Everdeen knock-off back in Divergent, Tris has lost all semblance of personality in Allegiant, which is almost worse than the awful personality that she sported in Insurgent. Shailene Woodley has become highly detached from the role, and is clearly just floating through proceedings for a cheque at this point.
There’s just as little to say about everyone else too. Nobody makes an impression, and nobody engages the audience anymore. It really is that simple. Theo James at least puts in a little more effort than most of the cast, but even he can’t really act his way through this movie’s wholly flaccid, contrivance-filled script. At least Four has the semi-interesting angle of having to struggle with the fallout of his mother’s revolution, which he never asked for, but the movie barely does anything with this, especially since the characters flee Chicago very early on. Even Naomi Watts is barely given anything to do as Evelyn, having surprisingly little screentime, and spending most of it either shouting nonsense revolutionary rhetoric, or staring down Octavia Spencer’s former Amity leader, Johanna (who is a violent freedom fighter now, for literally no reason), for a big showdown that doesn’t even truly happen here.
Another semi-interesting character, at times, is Peter, once again played by Miles Teller. Peter was incredibly annoying and inconsistent in Insurgent, but at least in Allegiant, he’s merely inconsistent, so… Progress? The movie actually does make Peter into more of a credible turncoat, as he’s easily bored by the mundane existence in the hidden human settlement of the Bureau of Genetic Welfare in the outer lands, and this at least semi-explains why he feels the need to be an asshole throughout most of the movie. If nothing else, Teller is also trying to have fun with a script that he clearly knows is terrible, so it could be worse.
Everyone else however just floats through the movie, half-asleep and not even trying. Even the new addition of Jeff Daniels’ David, the Bureau of Genetic Welfare’s boss, is sleepy and listless to the point of unintentional hilarity. Daniels is so much better than this movie, and like Woodley, he feels like he’s just completely slumming it for a cheque in Allegiant. The scenes where Woodley and Daniels have to act off of each other are especially awkward and hollow, since neither actor seems to care about the lines that they’re reciting, leading to both of them feeling like they’re somehow not even in the same room, despite being right beside each other.
Insurgent may have been a sloppy, schizophrenic experience, but at least it sort of tried to have some level of character engagement. Allegiant however just has nothing. Its personalities barely feel like they’re even there, delivering some of the worst performances in a major movie release since Fifty Shades of Grey from last year! The stakes should be really amping up now, approaching the climax that’s set to unfold in Ascendant next year, but instead, Allegiant’s cast just feels like they’re just as eager to get through this thankless bullshit as the audience no doubt is.
As I’ve stressed already, Allegiant, the book, really should not have been split into two movies. There is barely enough plot here to sustain one movie by the look of things, let alone two! It seems like The Divergent Series is trying to follow the example of the Harry Potter movies most notably, having Allegiant serve as pure buildup for an event to come, and then have Ascendant pretty well entirely showcase the spectacular final battle.
Given the wafer-thin story however, Allegiant doesn’t come anywhere close to culminating the rich lore and captivating world of the Harry Potter movies. Instead, it feels like an especially thankless chapter in an already thankless saga, one that purely exists to set up another movie that audiences will no doubt care even less about when it hit theatres next year. There’s almost nothing to say about this story. It’s a scattershot sequence of events that set up a new villain, bringing with it a new rebellion for Tris to spearhead (count ’em, that’s three. These morons are never satisfied, clearly), and frankly, the excuse for it all is pretty damn flimsy in this movie.
Most shameless however is that, when the big ultimate secret of the factions is revealed, it’s a painfully obvious copy of the exact same scenario from the Maze Runner franchise! Yep, this series has truly run the gamut of sci-fi derivation, after Divergent heavily recycled The Hunger Games, Insurgent heavily recycled The Matrix, and now, we have Allegiant, shamelessly recycling The Maze Runner, the other big YA movie franchise that only exists to capitalize on the success of The Hunger Games! The studio isn’t even trying to hide their story theft anymore!
That’s ultimately all that Allegiant is; Pure buildup for a movie that’s still over a year away, and a continued stitching together of various other successful elements from other more successful YA sci-fi franchises. The movie ends on a non-climax, offers largely uneven action in a futile effort to engage the audience every so often, and is clearly missing the true payoff of its story. Oh, and if you also noticed the sheer amount of non-sensical, plot-convenient fantasy technology in Insurgent, it’s worse than ever in Allegiant, which continues to just invent gizmos that do whatever the writer wants, without any logic or explanation as to how they work, or how a post-apocalyptic desert society was somehow able to construct impossible tech like this. Sure, it’s imaginative, but when Allegiant makes the conscious choice to take place in our real world, that draws attention to how ridiculous and contrived the technology of this world is, something that wasn’t a problem in The Hunger Games, because it took place in a fantasy world.
Maybe Ascendant will justify all of this buildup that took an entire movie to put in place this year, but the chances of that aren’t looking good, given how little Allegiant’s storyline brings to the table. In the end, this movie just feels like a complete waste of time, and as I’ve said more than once already, it really doesn’t need to exist. There’s no reason why Ascendant couldn’t have just been the final movie, since all Allegiant serves to do is stretch out the time before the final battle, explaining the secret of the factions and why Tris is so damn important all the time, none of which needed an entire movie to itself to lay out!
Robert Schwentke returns from Insurgent to once again helm Allegiant, and once again, his direction is all style and no substance here, to put it kindly. Schwentke at least manages to add a slight distinct flair to the movie’s outer landscape, which does manage to separate itself from most other movie landscapes of this nature, though as with the writers, Schwentke isn’t really masking when he rips off other franchises very well. Some of his visual beats and action framing looks alright, but none of it ever truly excels, and that’s not counting scenes with direction and dialogue that’s almost ripped directly wholesale from other, better movies, and in the case of the faction twist, the Maze Runner movies.
That’s before the really weird, non-sensical editing throughout Allegiant too. Sometimes, Schwentke just presents a scene in a very odd, disconnected fashion, which takes the audience out of the movie. You’ll know these scenes when you see them. They’re most noticeable when big character moments are supposed to take place, especially when they incorporate characters like Tris, David, Caleb, or even Evelyn and Johanna. Schwentke just doesn’t seem like he’s even bothering to direct the actors anymore, as if even he’s realized how bad Insurgent turned out to be, and has now given up on the two-part finale, despite Lionsgate and Summit managing to rope him back to the directors’ chair. The fact that Schwentke is further hamstrung by Allegiant largely losing the surreal dream sequences that formerly defined this movie franchise also definitely doesn’t help matters, and also leads to futile attempts by Schwentke to desperately inject visual flair in scenes that don’t need it, which just becomes distracting.
Considering how derivative Allegiant is, it’s naturally nothing to write home about in terms of its direction. Everything feels detached and cold, an even more blatantly cynical attempt to cash in on a rapidly-dying fad whose prize pony has now finished its turn on the big screen. There’s just so incredibly little to Allegiant, which doesn’t even manage to provide shallow, rudimentary thrills to compensate for all of the dull, brainless and illogical storytelling that’s instead holding up proceedings, to the movie’s misfortune.
Joseph Trapanese returns to score the soundtrack of Allegiant, after formerly doing the score for Insurgent, and the resulting music suite is… Fine. It’s acceptable. The music is one of the better elements of Allegiant at least, even if just slightly, but it still often feels too lethargic for its own good. The music seems to be another element that’s trying to compensate for the loss of the dream sequences in much of the story, attempting a surreal, introspective direction that just doesn’t find a worthy narrative to effectively attach itself to.
The rest of the audio effects in the movie are, again, acceptable, but nothing special. The sounds of the plot-convenient sci-fi gizmos aren’t that interesting or novel, and while some of the weapons have a bit of neat kick to them, it doesn’t save action scenes that too often feel uneven, but most of the time tend to disappoint. You’ll get a slight bit of added power from the audio if you opt for an IMAX showing of Allegiant, but even then, it’s not enough to merit the increased cost of an IMAX ticket.
Like Insurgent, for all of its failings, at least Allegiant manages to look pretty nice. It’s stupid, brainless and derivative, but at least the movie is fairly easy to watch. The outer lands are the big visual highlight, having a blood-red complexion to the sand and mud that makes the world feel effectively dead in a very trippy, surreal way. There’s even a blood-like rain that sometimes falls, making the world feel even more odd and intriguing. As much as it doesn’t make sense, the set for the Bureau of Genetic Welfare is also pretty cool, and a definite step up from the former movies in terms of style. None of this is enough to save the final product, but at least effort was made to make Allegiant visually effective, if nothing else.
Lending credence to Allegiant feeling like an especially thankless follow-up for an already derivative series of movies, is that it strangely nixes the 3D cut that Insurgent offered last year, which was one of that movie’s better elements, surprisingly. Instead, Allegiant is merely presented with the option of a flat IMAX cut, with the only other option being standard digital 2D screenings. As with the previous two movies, the IMAX cut of Allegiant is completely pointless and not worth your money too. It doesn’t use the IMAX screen, it barely makes use of the IMAX sound system, and it adds nothing to the experience.
It’s tough to criticize a movie that already feels like a nothing of an experience, for a premium IMAX cut that adds nothing to an already pointless experience, but an IMAX cut definitely doesn’t soften the blow of a thoroughly unnecessary movie sequel. At least the novel is brought to life on the big screen in a fairly effective way, somewhat managing to justify this movie adaptation, but not this half-movie itself. Allegiant should have been one movie, and probably would have benefited more from being one movie, where it could have had its grand final battle inject some much-needed engagement and satisfaction into a frustratingly terrible storyline.
Worse than being the frustrating, vapid spectacle of stupidity that Insurgent was, Allegiant doesn’t even manage that. It barely manages anything. It’s a total stopgap movie, meant purely to make some easy money for the studio as they prepare the true final installment to this series for next year. It’s pointless, forgettable, dopey, derivative, and unless you’re a fan of the novels, there’s absolutely no reason to see it, even ironically.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it as many times as I have to before it sinks in to the heads of studio executives; If you’re going to split a book into two movies, make sure there’s enough story to justify that as more than a transparent cash grab! Clearly, audiences knew that the two-part Allegiant adaptation is a cash grab, since most of them justifiably ignored it, having Allegiant not even manage to truly break even at the box office at this point, and leading to Ascendant subsequently having its budget slashed as it goes into production for its 2017 release, and that’s not a good sign. Say what you will about the Maze Runner movies, but at least they were decent enough not to split the last book in that trilogy into two movies when they clearly shouldn’t! Hell, even the cinematic plague of Fifty Shades of Grey has so far been nice enough not to split its final book into two movies!
With no real substance, no real brains, no real stakes, and no real reason to exist, Allegiant is a complete waste, and continues to have The Divergent Series sinking further into the muck, now having firmly reached the awful standards of The Twilight Saga. Maybe Ascendant will at least allow this ill-advised movie franchise to end on an acceptable note next year, but it sadly looks like most moviegoers won’t really care either way at this point, and Allegiant definitely doesn’t give them a reason to start caring.
- Miles Teller is kind of funny sometimes
- Visuals are still decent
- Terrible performances are completely detached and unengaging
- Lazy, derivative plot that continues to have no sense of logic
- Not nearly enough substance to justify the split into two movies