Triss and Four escape over the wall to discover what happened to the rest of the world.
The blockbuster adaptations of Veronica Roth’s book series continue with the latest entry, Allegiant. Though this bears the name of the last book in the trilogy, it’s actually the first half of a two part finale, which will finish off with Ascendant in 2017.
We kick off after the tumultuous events of Insurgent with the city of Chicago in disarray and new leaders trying to keep order. It’s a complex situation and one which will utterly bewilder anyone who missed out on the movies and books so far.
It isn’t long before the action steps up a gear, with an escape, a chase and a new home beyond the wall. Returning director Robert Schwentke really does up the ante in terms of set pieces here, with speed ramping slow motion, large explosions and some very cool technology enhancing the action.
This is one of the biggest sci-fi scenes on the big screen in years, with futuristic aircraft, shining cities and person drones for use in future warfare. The design and execution of these elements is up there with the best of the genre and, combined with an unusually vibrant colour palate (we’re used to dystopia being utterly grey), makes Allegiant something of a visual treat.
Aesthetically then it’s a success but things are more problematic when it comes to the story. The plot diverges wildly from the book in an attempt to carve out an interstitial narrative and create a third act without spoiling the events to come. But there isn’t really enough material to sustain that weight, with most of the movie showing attractive people talking about the same few concepts over and over.
The ending also awkwardly apes the finale of the book series but without a significant payoff it all seems a bit pointless. It doesn’t help that the characters are mostly listless here, with Shailene Woodley’s Triss especially inert. As a strong female character who has been the driving force of the previous entries in the series, and rather kick ass to boot, it’s a shame to see her stricken by a case of damsel in distress, with Theo James’ Four doing most of the dirty work.
One of the biggest problems in this film, and the series as a whole, is the near total lack of personality for these characters. Just because it’s the future and things are stressful doesn’t mean everyone has had their sense of humour forcibly removed but there are no lighter moments, no glimpses of depth behind the facades of reading the script. Only Miles Teller’s Peter breaks that mould, and it’s easy to imagine the actor bringing in those moments himself.
There’s little enough time spent on the broader ideas of the story, which in this case includes genetic modification and themes of racism and exclusion. In racing to the next pretty picture, there’s no room to actually dwell on what these stories are about, or even contemplate what the characters are searching for beyond the current conflict.
I’m all for more sci-fi on the big screen and there has previously been much to like in the Divergent series but this cobbled together third movie would have been better rolled into an epic and emotional single film finale. Let’s hope they can bring it all together with a new director for Ascendant in 2017.