Fighting to save others begins an honorable union in “The Divergent Series: Allegiant,” a lackluster third installment in the young-adult franchise, from director Robert Schwentke. Picking up directly after the events of the previous film, the story follows Tris and Four as they journey beyond the wall surrounding Chicago, and discover a dangerous secret that will change their world.
With the fall of the previous leader, a new regime grows ruthless under the command of Evelyn (Naomi Watts). Seeking answers, Tris (Shialene Woodley) and Four (Theo James) lead a group over the wall, into the toxic, war-torn wasteland. Soon they find the leaders behind the Chicago experiment, led by the mysterious David (Jeff Daniels). But when Tris and Four learn of the organization’s shady superior genetics plan, a battle begins over the fate of Chicago.
Splitting the series’ final novel into two films – to be followed next summer with the conclusion, “Ascendant” – “The Divergent Series: Allegiant” immediately runs aground on the same problems plaguing other film adaptations. When a single story is split in two, filmmakers are able to include more of the source material, but they must also expand scenes that would otherwise be shorter, bloating the film and throwing off its pacing.
Attempting to expand and flesh-out the story can be a good thing, but it is entirely dependent on strong characters that elicit care and emotion from the audience. “Allegiant” does not meet either of these criteria. Not only do the characters feel eerily formulaic, light duplicates of characters in other young-adult series such as “The Hunger Games” and “The Maze Runner,” they are also dull and uninteresting. Is the audience supposed to root for this person? Is this person supposed to be the villain now? The characters are tacked onto the narrative, rather than used as the story’s driving force.
The actors – including Jeff Daniels – seem aware of this, and instead of invested performances, their roles feel bland. Despite the filmmakers taking the time and effort to split the novel into two parts, this first installment feels rather weak. One would expect the filmmakers to fully explain the story’s conflict – and the themes of gene splicing and “superior” genetics are an interesting direction – but they instead dance around the details, focusing on dull characters.
Despite its drab characters and largely uninteresting plot, the film does eventually improve. While it takes a while to get moving and provide answers, the story is entertaining to watch, despite its decrepit pacing. This doesn’t make the plot much better, but if someone wants slightly exciting, teenage science fiction, they’ll probably be drawn into the narrative’s conflict.
With a story that follows almost every previous young-adult formula, “The Divergent Series: Allegiant,” from director Robert Schwentke, does manage to produce an engaging climax. Unfortunately, it requires audiences to sit through uninteresting characters, a lame series of conflicts that are never properly explained, and an unfocused story with uncertain direction.
My grade: 4 out of 10 stars.
(Timothy Hogg is a copy editor for The Derrick./The News-Herald. He has a minor in film and media studies from Slippery Rock University. Readers may contact him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.)