Horrorible Review: “Divergent: Allegiant”

Enjoy this Monday with Mildred!

Allegiant movie poster

Divergent: Allegiant

This series of movies, based on a book series by Veronica Roth, is a case study on the law of diminishing returns. Its biggest problem is that it wasn’t great to begin with, so it’s kind of amazing to see how low it got by the third film, and frightening to think there’s a fourth film coming. Fans of the series have long complained that their favorite’s buzz was harshed by the massive popularity and earning power of The Hunger Games, but if you’re just a humble reviewer looking impassively on then you can see that Divergent doesn’t have the same chops.

First of all, the source material is a nice read with a cute take on more than a few well-worn science fiction tropes, but it’s not, you know, heavy. There are any number of compare and contrasts I could do with the aforementioned competitor series but I’ll try to steer clear. In the first movie our heroine flouts authority and tradition and does what she wants. She joins the cool gang and goes through some awesome training and becomes a hardass heroine by the end of the film. Conflicts and traumas are steamrolled by her increasing awesomeness and the awesome awesomeness of her boyfriend.

Still, it’s a fun movie to watch if you’re not expecting any more than science fiction lite. The next movie, Insurgent is a little weaker, as most second films tend to be, so we can cut them some slack. The heroine begins to learn how to flex the muscles of her new awesomeness, which is great timing what with society breaking down completely like that. The viewer is left with a minor cliffhanger that no sane person expects will be difficult to overcome. The film is good looking and the acting is at about the same level as the first movie.

Then there is Allegiant, where everything comes together and the one story line is tied up in an awkward bow. I didn’t read the third book so I had only a vague idea what was going to happen. There was one way in which the movie drastically diverged (heh heh) from the book, which makes me wonder just how different the rest of it is.  Not enough to actually read the book, though maybe we just haven’t gotten to that big event and it’ll hit us in the upcoming fourth movie.  Not that I’ll actually watch it.

There were a couple of cool things, like how they get over the actual cliff from the second part. It demonstrated a nifty science fictional idea and reminded the viewers of the heroes’ special awesomeness and the evilness of the bad guys. Then they were outside the crumbly (yet still most stylish) slum that is their hometown, Chicago, and wandering the parts of The Martian landscape Matt Damon didn’t visit and end up in a huge colony of people living and working in a sterile bunk bed palace.

The already sparse dialogue got truly dumb quickly. “That water. It looks radioactive.”  What, did you train your eyes to be Geiger counters? They wander into the next test of their awesomeness and discover that all but the heroine Tris is “damaged” genetically. Think about that hunky, loving, smart, brave, fair-minded Four. Damaged. *snort* I really, really want to be that damaged. Or even a little bit that damaged.

Tris wanders through the story, occasionally rousing herself to take a bit of physical action. She’s still not as pretty as Four, but I think we can live with that. Her brainiac brother is still slackjawed at the thought that people want him to be loyal to the good guys and Peter is still deliciously, scene-chewing evil.  All the actors, including a completely wasted Jeff Daniels, who looked like a robot, seem stunned all the time. The director blocked everyone’s movements in an odd, stilted way that often had them talking with each other while staring off into the distance. Maybe the director thought that made it look more science fiction-y.  The sets were so sterile nothing looked real and I don’t even remember the music. I got a giggle out of the bad guys’ military transports that looked like flying, armored dogue de Bordeaux puppies.

The Divergent series could have been a contender in the badass heroine wars if they had risen above the mundane source material, but none of the movies had enough serious conflict or used the well-worn science fiction tropes to their advantage. The last film is sterile, kinda dumb, and just plain weird – and not in a good way, and for the actors’ sake I’m sad that there is supposed to be a fourth film. Not having read the book I couldn’t tell you what that’s going to be about, and frankly I was surprised to read about it because the movies seemed conclusively finished in the last minute of film. Hopefully with this review I will save at least one person from experiencing the nadir of an okay but not great series.

LINKS:

The Divergent Series: Allegiant Official Trailer #1 (2016) – Shailene Woodley Movie HD

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