Allegiant rattles along as a ride of wildly divergent quality.
The ups and downs of this third installment in the Divergent saga don’t come from roller coaster-style action and excitement. They’re the result of a breakdown in quality control that starts with the failure to even properly market this movie as part one in a two-part conclusion, following in the stretched-out footsteps of Harry Potter and Katniss Everdeen. Hence, even Flixster’s sent out emails hailing Allegiant as the “finale” of the Divergent series. That’ll be Ascendant, on the slate for this time next year.
The production’s problems are glaring. There’s shoddy CGI that rates only a pixel or two above Lionsgate/Summit’s February bomb, Gods of Egypt. There are the stock characters, such as the exponentially duplicitous turncoat and the personality- (and acting-) challenged brother to the lead heroine.
But, on the flip side, there are actually some cool production design elements, such as turtle-esque flying tanks and nifty drones that act as both shields and targeting scopes.
Plus, to its credit, Allegiant starts to craft a rather interesting storyline involving the human genome and the downfall of selective genetics.
The action picks up right where Insurgent left off this time last year.
The intrepid group of faction-busters, led by Tris (Shailene Woodley, The Descendents) and Four (Theo James, Underworld: Awakening), make it over the walled city of Chicago and encounter a radioactive wasteland wrapped in a distortion field that protects a purification project, both environmental and human.
There, they encounter a guy named David (Jeff Daniels, The Martian), who’s leading the charge to sanitize people back to a better state and to ultimately fix the damage done to society by way of selective breeding.
As it turns out, Tris is “pure” — making her the most divergent of the Divergent faction. Her boyfriend, Four, is, like so many people, “damaged.” That’s according to David.
But can David be trusted? And what’s going on back in ol’ Chicago?
Allegiant serves as a good setup for the truly final episode, putting pieces in place for a showdown in Chicago.
But getting there is a rough ride.
On the annoying side, there’s Miles Teller (Whiplash) as Peter, that duplicitous turncoat who really needs to be smacked upside the head. Maybe it’s really effective that he’s so annoying. Maybe the character is accomplishing the task of a predictably unpredictable plot-driving component. But maybe he’s just frickin’ annoying.
There’s also the less-than-hot romance between Tris and Four. Every so often they hug and smooch. Um. Okay. It is a “young adult” series, so that’s fine. Even at a low simmer, this romance lacks any sense of credible passion.
There are also two narrative elements that are complete duds.
One involves a ridiculous virtual reality ultra-surveillance system that allows viewers to step inside practically any given conversation and find out critical confidential plot points. It’s a cheap trick buried under high-tech semi-gloss. It’s unbelievable and a device that completely subverts the need to be clever in the story crafting.
The other gaping hole involves Naomi Watts (While We’re Young) as Evelyn, Four’s mom. After spending the bulk of the movie desperately searching for her son, she abruptly turns her back on him when he appears outside a glass door. Uh. Say what? That’s a classic dramatic failure.
When all is said and done, the end result is a movie that plays a little better than Insurgent, which isn’t high praise. It’s the kind of entertainment that’s easier — and a little more fun — to point out the defects than celebrate the parts done well.