********* 6 out of 10 *********
Director: Robert Schwentke
Actors: Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Jeff Daniels
The Divergent Series has decided to follow in the footsteps of Harry Potter, Twilight and The Hunger Games. Like these three, it too is splitting the final book of the series into two movies, the first of which – Allegiant – recently released. There is a basic difference however between the other trio and The Divergent Series. They were super-hit franchises with each movie raking in earnings in multiples of its budget; Divergent is far away from such numbers! The first two movies of The Divergent Series were close to break-even numbers in terms of their theatrical performance. With this backdrop, the idea to split the final book into two movies seems like a premeditated decision taken by the studio executives before the series was launched which they are reluctant to reverse even after the lacklustre box-office earnings of the franchise. Even keeping the financials aside, Allegiant suffers from the same tepidness that in my opinion affected the ‘Part 1’ of the finale of each of the other three movie franchises. Splitting a book, which in itself is not too lengthy, gives the writers limited source material to use and somewhere down the line, they end up stretching the middle portion of the movie to fill up space. That is what Allegiant suffers from, and thus despite a good start and an exciting climax, it’s the section in between the two which makes it duller than the previous two movies of the franchise.
In Allegiant, Beatrice “Tris” (Shailene Woodley) and Tobias “Four” (Theo James) plan to cross the walls surrounding Chicago and discover what lies on the other side, after Four’s mother (Naomi Watts) starts taking charge of matters in Chicago. The screenplay of Allegiant has been written by an entirely new set of people consisting of Stephen Chbosky, Bill Collage, Adam Cooper and Noah Oppenheim, though director Robert Schwentke returns from Insurgent. Schwentke manages to create a feeling of tension in Chicago after the fall of the previous leader Jeanine, with the conditions ripe for another war. While Chicago is going through a turmoil, Tris and her friends are on the other side of the wall where they encounter the Bureau of Genetic Welfare, a highly advanced city headed by David (Jeff Daniels). Here they learn the truth of what happened to the world and why was Chicago isolated. But it is here that the problems in the movie arise. The screenplay feels weak, hanging on to loose threads, trying to create some kind of connection with the events of the previous two movies but it hardly creates anything that could be called the “ahh!” moment. The action sequences die down for large part of the movie, which is in contrast to Insurgent, and the pacing becomes slower and less exciting than what it should have been. Towards the climax, we start to once again get the feel of what The Divergent Series is all about, and the quickening of the pace helps restore some quality back into the movie.
You need to watch the previous two movies to get the hang of what is happening in Allegiant. I find that a bit strange considering that the movies haven’t been doing too well at the box-office, and this effectively blocks out the potential of getting new audience to the theatres. This ain’t Harry Potter after all! But if you have been watching the series, then Allegiant can be remembered as the one where actor Theo James comes into his own and makes a mark on the series. While so far it has been more about Tris, Allegiant is led by Four. And Theo James. He takes on the mantle of a guy of action, asserting his dominance in many scenes, turning into a leader. James has come a long way as an actor from the relatively new guy we met two years back in Divergent who seemed a little unsure of himself. Shailene Woodley is as effective as always in her performance, and while she ain’t scaling any new heights with movies like Allegiant, she ain’t falling either. Her role in Allegiant does not test her much as an actor, which hopefully will be corrected in the final film, Ascendant. Jeff Daniels is a wonderful addition to the cast, and he plays the role of President David with style and cunningness in equal measures. Miles Teller, in the brief screen time that he gets in this series, once again shows what a talent he is, playing the crafty and charming Peter with such ease that it can give you the creeps. Naomi Watts, on the other hand, hardly looks the part of the leader who could have taken over Chicago, while Octavia Spencer and Ansel Elgort just have to show up for roles that would not even require use of a fraction of their talent.
Allegiant, for most parts, does not even look and feel as being part of The Divergent Series. It lacks the pace and intensity of its predecessors, which was needed to make up for the average storyline. The series deserves more thought and effort while executing the movies, and I am hoping that the last part – Ascendant – is more explosive in all aspects so that the franchise can end on a high.