The truth lies beyond.
If you’ve been following my ramblings thus far, you probably already know that I actually enjoyed the first couple of chapters in Veronica Roth’s young adult movie adaptations. You see, when Divergent opened two years ago, viewers were presented with an exciting new post-apocalyptic future — one with an industrial type of Hunger Games vibe.
Set inside the walled in city of Chicago, we were introduced to a world where the populous had been divided into five factions: Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Erudite (the intellectual), Candor (the truthful) and Amity (the peaceful), while the unaffiliated Factionless lived outside of the system. Enter Beatrice ‘Tris’ Prior (Shailene Woodley), a young Abnegation woman who switches her allegiance to Dauntless before learning she’s Divergent — someone who possesses the abilities of multiple factions. During the film, our heroine meets (and falls in love with) another secret Divergent, Tobias ‘Four’ Eaton (Theo James), the pair uncovering an Erudite plot to take over the city.
The second film, Insurgent (2015), focused on Erudite oppressor Jeanine (Kate Winslet) as she hunted down rebel Divergents and subjected them to a series of distressing trials and tribulations in order to open a ‘magic box’ that apparently contained an ancient message from the city’s founders. Four’s mother Evelyn (Naomi Watts) — the power-hungry leader of the Factionless — was also introduced, adding a sense of gravity to Tobias’ story. Concluding on an open-ended note and a stream of potential narrative possibilities, the floodgates were left wide open for an epic two-part finale. The first-half of this climax, however, attempts to electrify with an increased number of visual effects and supporting players, but ultimately ends up faltering due to a lack of action and an overabundance of babble, the latter clearly designed to set up for a big payoff in next year’s Ascendant — a bit of a disappointment really.
The opening moments of Allegiant basically undercut the uplifting finale of Insurgent as the people marching toward their freedom are suddenly halted by Evelyn’s army, her number one goon Edgar (Jonny Weston) leading the troupe. While superiors Evelyn and Johanna (Octavia Spencer) butt heads about the future of their nation, Tris, Four, Christina (Zoë Kravitz), Peter (Miles Teller), and Caleb (Ansel Elgort) escape from their Chicago confines and enter a red desert wasteland similar to that of Mars. Truth be told, scenes in this irradiated region are among the picture’s best thanks to returning production designer Alec Hammond and cinematographer Florian Ballhaus, RED (2010), who have fashioned a bizarre world of crimson water, orange skies and desert sands unlike any we’ve seen in a contemporary post-holocaust film. Sadly, our time in this fascinating bombed-out terrain is cut short by the Bureau of Genetic Welfare, (the people living outside of the wall), who find the rebels and take them back to their sprawling highly advanced city (in the middle of this barren territory) for surveillance.
Here, Tris is introduced to the Bureau’s head honcho David, a bored looking Jeff Daniels, The Martian (2015), who stands around in a super shiny room and tells Tris the truth about her factioned society (something about monitoring citizens or whatever … honestly, I can’t remember). David also informs our leading lady that he intends to copy her genetic purity to build a better world, offering her a position of leadership while promising to save the people of Chicago, blah, blah, blah, blah. Basically what we have is a carbon copy of Kate Winslet’s Jeanine (whose absence is solely missed here) with David being just another well-tailored authority figure trying to tempt Tris into submission. What’s more, the picture goes into expositional mode for about an hour or so with a whole lotta world building that attempts to expand on Roth’s universe with clunky explanations of the Bureau’s modish technology, including virtual reality monitoring systems, mini-drones and some goofy looking CGI ‘plasma bubbles’ that Tris and her gang float around in, yawn.
At least director Robert Schwentke, Insurgent (2015), mixes things up for the flick’s final act, which sees our young heroes race against the clock to stop the release of an amnesia-inducing gas that threatens to wipe the memory of everyone it comes in contact with. Furthermore, although screenwriters Noah Oppenheim, The Maze Runner (2014), Adam Cooper, Exodus: Gods and Kings (2014), and Bill Collage, Accepted (2006), have veered away from Roth’s original writing, the essence of her overall story still (pretty much) remains in tact, particularly its themes of power and survival, along with the reasons as to why these experimental cities (with factions) were built in the first place.
Looking at the film’s cast, Theo James, Divergent (2014), probably fares best as Tris’ love interest Four, the macho-man eventually questioning the Bureau’s motives after joining their military. Shailene Woodley, The Fault in Our Stars (2014), looks as though she’s preoccupied with something else during the majority of her scenes, possibly fatigued and fed up with the series altogether. Naomi Watts, King Kong (2005), pretty much sleepwalks her way through her dialogue while Octavia Spencer, The Help (2011), and Nikita (2010) star Maggie Q are utterly wasted with mere bit parts. Ansel Elgort, The Fault in Our Stars (2014), has the charisma of a baked potato as Tris’ brother Caleb, whilst poor old Miles Teller, Whiplash (2014), looks as though he’s dying for his contract to expire so that he can badmouth the franchise once he’s done with it.
Ending on a cliff-hanger of sorts (the entire series could’ve really finished here), it’s no secret that Allegiant is pulling a similar trick to that of Twilight (2008) and The Hunger Games (2012), by splitting its final chapter into two films — although non-readers mightn’t realize this seeing as Allegiant part 2 is being re-named Ascendant — producers stretching the narrative for financial reasons alone. Consequentially, this decision seems to have hindered the series as a whole, its stars perhaps sick of returning time and time again just to please the corporate heavyweights (as opposed to Roth’s fans). In all honestly, I hope that Ascendant isn’t an outright dud, but after this lackluster effort (and some apparent budget cuts) I’m not getting my hopes up.
2.5 / 5 – Alright
Reviewed by Mr. Movie
Allegiant is released through eOne Films Australia