I am actually a huge fan of both ‘The Hunger Games’ and the ‘Divergent’ books. They are excellent series and great reads. Last Friday (March 18,2016) the first part of the ‘Allegiant’ adaptation was released, and boy was it a pointless movie and a terrible adaptation of the least popular book of the trilogy. If they were going to split a book into two, why not the second one? It doesn’t always have to be the final book that is split into two. While I certainly didn’t hate the last book as much as a lot of other people did, even I didn’t see the justification of splitting it into two parts. People would do better to rent or buy ‘Mockingjay: Part Two’ when it comes out on DVD and Blu-Ray Tuesday (March 22). I really didn’t see a problem with splitting that one into two when I heard about it although the actual films, while far superior to the ‘Divergent’ adaptations still have their faults. My main issue was that they cut a lot of the build up where Katniss befriended Johanna, Peeta’s recovery, and the training of the soldiers only to stretch out the ending-or falling action. It was fine to read that in a book, but in a film, it just isn’t as compelling on screen.
One convention in these post apocalyptic Young Adult stories is a controlling leadership- so controlling that execution for any type of disobedience is very common. Another is a change in regime. This often involves a leader who claims to be an outsider. This leader takes power only to exercise the same type of control as the previous leader. In ‘The Hunger Games,’ it was President Coin. In ‘Allegiant’ it was Evelyn Eaton. It is the election season, and a large number of congressional seats are up for graps. A number of people running are claiming to be outsiders, yet parroting the talking points of the established politicians and media, so why should we believe they’d do anything different once they got into office? This brings us to the actual adaptation of ‘Allegiant.’ It actually starts out poorly directed, but at least with promise. I actually watched a couple of reviews before going to see the movie. For about the first ten minutes, I didn’t think it was as bad as people said it was. There was an underwhelming first scene where people were prevented (by armed guards) from leaving the city be Evelyn’s orders, with a cut to a schmaltzy “romantic” moment between Tris and Four. Then there were the trials where people who had worked with Jeanine in the first two movies were put on trial. The first man was executed as several members in the crowd cheered while others protested. Evelyn, of course, said that she was doing the will of the people in allowing the execution. She in essence passed the buck for her own decision, just as President Coin passed the buck to the victors when she has them vote on whether or not to have a final Hunger Games with children of the capital. When Octavia Spencer’s Johanna refuses to support the executions, she and her group are labeled as traitors by Evelyn and her followers. It demonstrates that one leader who has the “you’re either with me or against me” mentality is no better than the other. After the first few minutes, ‘Allegiant’ becomes an utter turd. ‘Mockingjay Part 2’ could have been better, but at least it is well directed, will good performances, solid arcs, more rounded characters, a consistent tone, and it doesn’t fundamentally change from the plot of the book.
‘Allegiant’ feels like it was built on a foundation of CGI. It as though the studio told the special effects department to design things based on a Wikipedia summary or cliff’s notes. They could have at least used Spark of they were going to cheat. From there it feels like the screen writers wrote around the nifty special effects. The scene where Tris, Four, Christina, Peter, and Caleb are in the wasteland beyond the wall before they are picked up by the staff from O’Hare is very dragged out. The director Robert Schwentke and screen writers really felt the need to beat the audience over the head with how crappy things were. Then there is the scene where Tris takes a shower to clean off the toxic air. It is long and drawn out. Then there is even a longer scene where she gets on a technologically advance elevator to meet David (Jeff Daniels). The tech is neat, but becomes pretty boring to watch. I know that they felt the need to stretch things because they wanted to stretch this into two movies, but it may have been better to not fundamentally change the plot of the book. There was a back story with Tris’s mother in the book where she had come from the O’hare group and infiltrated Chicago through Dauntless. The initial intention was to infiltrate Erudite, but she met Tris’s father who had decided to join Abnegation because he saw Jeanine experimenting on a factionless person. It gave him concerns about ethics. That back story was merely mentioned. It and a lot of other things were replaced with stupid action scenes that were clearly supposed to be exciting. Marvel Studios, please don’t hire the people who wrote and directed this crap. Everything of substance from the book is just touched upon or mentioned, with action and tech sequences are ridiculously drawn out. The most annoying change is the part where Tris is the only true Divergent or “genetically pure” person in Chicago: they went with the “chosen one” cliché. In the books there were others including Four’s father and Uriah. At least he made an appearance in the first two movies: he was completely cut from this one. The whole idea from the books was that Tris couldn’t be manipulated by serums, simulations, or rigid ideologies. That is lost in this adaptation. I’d recommend waiting until this comes on TV or Netflix. It’s not really worth seeing in the theaters. Veronica Roth’s novels are a very good read though.
“Mockingjay: Part 2” is a fairly decent adaptation. I wouldn’t recommend re-reading the book right before seeing the film or you’ll just be annoyed at everything that gets cut or changed. Woody Harrelson and Elizabeth Banks could teach a masters class on making character relevant with limited screen time. I really didn’t mind that Effie Trinket was a much biggest presence on screen than in the novel where she only appeared in the Snow-Switched-to-Coin execution scene. The back and forth between her and Haymitch really added to the enjoyment of the film and improved on something from the source material. Sure some things were a bit rushed, and the falling action was a bit dragged, but it was a decent adaptation. Many of the supporting character actually had distinctive personalities on screen. It was as though the director and writers actually cared about making a good film. The actually flesh out the themes from the book. Fans of the ‘Divergent’ novels would do well to just stick with the books, while fans of ‘The Hunger Games’ have every reason to add ‘Mockingjay part 2’ to their DVD and blu-ray collections.
‘Allegiant’ gets one and a half stars, it’s not completely un-watchable; ‘Mockingjay: Part 2’ gets 3. Not quite as good as the previous two thanks to rushing earlier parts and drawing out the ending, but it’s still good.