The Divergent film series – based on the Young Adult trilogy by Veronica Roth – immediately felt like a cash-in on the success of The Hunger Games film franchise. Divergent is painful in its complexity: set in a typical YA post-apocalyptic future, Tris (Shailene Woodley) must navigate the walled city of Chicago, where factions are systemized by certain characteristics – Erudite is made up of the intelligentsia, Dauntless are warriors, etc. Initiates take a test to determine what faction they should join, yet they are free to choose (and, seemingly, may alternate between factions at will).
The first film in the franchise, 2014’s Divergent, was unsuccessful in articulating the political rules and nuances of this society. 2015’s sequel Insurgent lacked the intellect to explore the intertwining of identity politics and technology. The third film, 2016’s Allegiant, is surprisingly confident and competently made in comparison to its predecessors.
Following the collapse of the faction system and the death of the autocratic Jeanine (Kate Winslet), war is about to break out in Chicago between Evelyn (Naomi Watts), arguably Jeanine’s successor, and the rebellious “Allegiant,” led by Johanna (Octavia Spencer). Meanwhile, Tris, “Four” (Theo James), Caleb (Ansel Elgort), Christina (Zoë Kravitz), and Peter (Miles Teller) leave the city to learn of what exists beyond the wall.
Allegiant adapts only the first half of its source material (the rest will be adapted into Ascendant next year). Yet unlike The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part I, Allegiant never feels like half of a movie; rather, it is structured as completely as Divergent and Insurgent. Indeed, Robert Schwentke’s direction here (he also directed Insurgent) is more assured than it was in the previous entry. Allegiant is not interested in pseudo-intellectual explorations of its political or social themes. Here, the goal is to entertain, and on that level it succeeds.
Given the slow death of the YA film adaptations (hopefully precipitated by the lacklustre showing of The 5th Wave earlier this year), Allegiant is at least a watchable and reasonably well-made film. While not particularly interesting or compelling, its stylized action sequences and surprisingly strong performances make this an effective time killer.
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Mark Barber: @WorstCinephile