THE DIVERGENT SERIES: ALLEGIANT PART 1: 2 STARS. “‘Hunger Games’ Lite.”
“The Divergent Series,” the film franchise birthed from the Veronica Roth’s teen dystopian novels, have always seemed like “Hunger Games” wannabes but the new one, “Allegiant,” will leave no one hungry for more.
The backstory: In “Divergent” a Big Brother style government has divided the post-apocalyptic Chicago into five factions: the altruistic Abnegation sect, the peace loving Amity, the “I cannot tell a lie” Candor group, the militaristic arm Dauntless and the smarty-pants Erudites.
At age sixteen all citizens must submit to a personality test that will help them decide which faction they will join. Beatrice Prior (Shailene Woodley) is from an Abnegation family, but chooses to join Dauntless, the warrior faction charged with protecting the city. During her training it’s discovered she is divergent, a person who cannot be pigeonholed into just one designation.
The second film “Insurgent” saw Tris, her brother Caleb (Ansel Elgort) and boyfriend Four (Theo James) escape the world of factions and live off the grid. They are fugitives from Jeanine Matthews (Kate Winslet), the head of the Erudite faction and an evil brainiac who desperately wants to get her hands on Tris. As a 100% divergent Tris is one of the few who can unlock the secrets of a mysterious box that holds the key to the future of humanity. As revolution brews against Janine, and the fascism of the factions, Tris does the only thing she can do to stop the bloodshed.
That’s the story so far. If you’re still interested and with us, you’re up to speed.
The new film continues Tris’s quest to find out what the heck’s going on. For the first time the core players—Tris, Four, Caleb and a handful of others—go beyond the wall that separates Chicago from the rest of the world. “It’s time to break from the past,” they say in their quest to find a peaceful resolution to the chaos that has characterized their young lives. What they discover is a barren, red-stained place where it rains crimson—“Great! The sky is bleeding!”—and the ground is toxic. Luckily folks who welcome them to the future rescue them. (On a side note, isn’t the future their own present? When does the future become the present and vice versa?) The Chicagoans are detoxified and taken to an oasis built in the former O’Hare Airport to meet a new leader, the charismatic David (Jeff Daniels). Soon, however, they must ask themselves if this new, seemingly utopian society is that much different from the one they left behind? Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.
“The Divergent Series: Allegiant” is as interesting as you would imagine a movie largely set in an airport would be. Opening up the story to include the world beyond the walls should have presented opportunities to expand the story in interesting ways, but in this case more is less. The story limps along, ripe with dialogue exchanges that wouldn’t be other place in a 1980s Jean-Claude Van Damme flick—“ It’s impossible.” “So?” “So… I’ll make it happen.”—talk of genetic tampering and social commentary about how building walls to separate people won’t work (Are you listening Mr. Trump?). Instead of deepening the story the extra stuff muddles whatever point the movie was trying to make in the first place. Like an overcrowded freeway, the amount of traffic, story wise in the film, slows everything down to a stop.
Perhaps it’s because “The Divergent Series: Allegiant – Part 1” is one book cleaved into two movies or maybe it’s because director Robert Schwentke treats this film as a long set up to a finale but none of the new material makes much of an impact. Add to that generic special effects and you’re left with a story that isn’t as divergent from the rest of the YA pack as it would like to be.