Even if it is an unpopular opinion, I’ll say it: I enjoyed the first two films in the “Divergent” series. I thought the first installment was a low-key addition to the young adult (YA) literature movie phenomenon, flaws and all. “The Divergent Series: Insurgent” stumbled a bit more in execution, going for a much larger scale than the first, but still held my attention and entertained me. With the most recent installment, “The Divergent Series: Allegiant” (henceforth called “Allegiant”), I expected the film to be on the same level as “Insurgent,” as the same director, Robert Schwentke, was behind the film. What I failed to remember is how much I really disliked the source novel by Veronica Roth. I ate up the first book and even got through the second one no problem, but the third and final book in the series underwhelmed me to say the least. Now, while this film is called “Allegiant,” it technically should be called “Allegiant: Part 1,” as the final film in the series, despite simply being “Allegiant: Part 2,” is going under the title “Ascendant,” for some weird reason.
But then again, that would only begin the laundry list of things that don’t make sense in this film.
I’m not sure if I woke up from liking this series or if this installment truly did just take a nosedive, but “Allegiant” doesn’t seem to even want to be a cohesive film. While the past films have been a tad convoluted, “Allegiant” is just a babbling machine of a film, finding ways to inject star-studded cameos into the film without any explanation whatsoever. But above all, the most shameful thing about this film, even worse than the previous one, is that it manages to get bad performances out of good actors. Take franchise newcomer Jeff Daniels, arguably one of the best actors working today and while he does put forth probably the best performance in the whole film, that says nothing, seeing how his performance still is stilted, stiff and B-level at best.
But Daniels isn’t the only victim to this, we get this from other respected actors such as Octavia Spencer, Naomi Watts, Ray Stevenson, Zoë Kravitz, Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley, whom people seem to forget how great she was in films like “The Descendants” and “The Spectacular Now.” For a film series that is nowhere near the pinnacle of respected franchises, both financially and critically, the impressive, yet bored looking cast always seems to surprise me.
With its nonsense plot, Schwentke finds plenty of ways to try to make the film visually appealing, but ends up just taking cues from other, better films. Each new piece of technology issued in the film has been done in other films like “Oblivion,” “The Matrix,” “Ultraviolet,” “Guardians of the Galaxy,” “Oz the Great and Powerful” and even other YA franchises like “The Hunger Games,” “Ender’s Game” and “Harry Potter.” The film does have a unique color palette about it, which I thought I liked at first, but then realized that it was a very unsettling, off-putting shade of red that got weird really quickly. Put in the face that it can’t even have fun with silly 3D effects like “Insurgent” (a strange regression in formats) and the film doesn’t have much to offer in the way of visuals.
For a penultimate chapter, “Allegiant” spends far too much time setting itself up (121 minutes, to be exact), which leads to a lot of slow, dull dialogue scenes between characters. Because of this, we’re made so much more aware of how inept the screenplay to this film really is, with some of the cheesiest dialogue I’ve seen in a film in a long time. The way characters speak to each other is so obvious and dumbed down, I almost felt insulted as an audience member, seeing as the film didn’t seem to realize that audiences can pick up on subtlety more than they think.
Not only this, but other aspects of the film, such as the musical score and editing, are all over the place as well. The score is nothing short of forgettable and hardly ever shows itself in the film in general, but when the sound does kick in, it never does the job correctly, taking the wrong tone typically. The editing, on the other hand, is strange to say the least, as it takes a different form than in the previous films, making each transition in the film feel out of place and ham-fisted. And while the ending to “Insurgent” was one of the best parts of the film, with an abrupt twist I dug, the editing of the ending of this film is abrupt in the worst way, with no indication of any build up to a conclusion and by the time the words “Directed by Robert Schwentke” come on screen, I felt a strange mix of “That’s it?” and “Thank God it’s over.”
It’s not all bad, as there were some moments in the second act where I thought it could redeem itself from its awful opening, but the way that the second act segues into the finale undid that for me mostly. I’ll give it some props for improving a bit to make me feel a bit more involved, but I’m beating it over the head for taking me right back out of it.
Let’s face it, “The Divergent Series” was never going to be “The Hunger Games” and God forbid ever even come close to “Harry Potter,” but the first two films had merit about it and “Allegiant” should’ve had the same enjoyability, but when there’s a bad source material, there’s bound to be a bad adaption and so “Allegiant” came to be. But wait, there’s more, as there’s still one more installment until the end of the franchise. While Schwentke isn’t returning as director, I can’t help but think however good Lee Toland Krieger (“The Age of Adaline”) does, it’s only going to be as good as its poorly written screenplay. I’ll try to hold out some hope for it and just hope that either A. this installment is a qualitative anomaly or B. I’m simply just being mean to the film, but I’m not placing bets on it. “Allegiant” just exists in the realm above B-movie and below respectable cinema, a buffer zone, much like “The Fringe” in the film, that’s hellish and hard to get out of.
Directed by: Robert Schwentke
Starring: Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Jeff Daniels, Octavia Spencer, Ray Stevenson, Zoë Kravitz, Miles Teller, Ansel Elgort, Maggie Q, Bill Skarsgård and Naomi Watts
Runtime: 121 minutes
Rating: PG-13 for intense violence and action, thematic elements and some partial nudity.
Also available in IMAX
Summit Entertainment presents, a Red Wagon Entertainment production, a Mandeville Films production, a Robert Schwentke film, “The Divergent Series: Allegiant”