There are some franchises that have a rough start and tend to get better. There are others that start off great and then slowly decline. And, on the rare occasion, there are some that are solid the whole way through. The “Divergent” franchise doesn’t fall into any of those categories. It actually has managed to start off with a mediocre debut and then progressively get worse. With the third film, “Allegiant,” hitting theaters on March 18, it seems the franchise still hasn’t learned from the mistakes it initially made with the previous two entries.
In fact, “Allegiant” feels like whatever advice was given to improve the franchise was immediately chucked in the trash and set on fire. And then that trash can was dragged out to the middle of the desert and left for vultures to peck at. Whatever hope there is for this franchise to end on a high note with next year’s “Ascendant” might as well join that trash can. Even if director Robert Schwetke isn’t helming the final chapter of the series, this franchise is too far gone at this point, and there’s really no road to recovery.
The story picks up immediately following the events of “Insurgent.” Jeanine is dead, and a new leader named Evelyn (Naomi Watts) has taken over the dystopian, futuristic version of Chicago. The faction system is broken, and residents are rebelling against Evelyn. This leads Tris (Shailene Woodley), Four (Theo James), Caleb (Ansel Elgort), and Peter (Miles Teller) to venture beyond the wall that has encapsulated them inside this area for many years.
Beyond the bleak world that is futuristic Chicago is the result of a painter getting frustrated with his most recent work that he chucks his entire palette onto the canvas and calls it the best he can do, given the circumstances. It is the ugliest representation of a desolate wasteland to grace the silver screen in years. Each shot has so many different colors that appear on the screen, but don’t seem to fit with the rest of the imagery. Nearly every scene has some kind of color scheme that feels out of place.
In this outside world is the leader of the Bureau of Genetic Warfare. His name is David (Jeff Daniels), and the mission of his organization is to sort out those that are pure and those that are damaged. He’s apparently supposed to be the big antagonist of the whole film, but there’s nothing sinister about him. He just talks and talks and talks. And then when he’s attempting to thwart the lives of the protagonists, he still comes off as bland. Not even Daniels, who has proven to be superb with serious work, can bring anything to the role.
“Allegiant” is a film that was given more than $100 million to make. This exceeds the amount the first one had and is on par with the second. And it somehow managed to make it look cheaper than those two films. Everything about the setting and look of “Allegiant” is so heavily reliant on CGI, bright colors, and the use of green screen that there is hardly one moment in which the fight scenes or conversations between the characters feel natural.
“Insurgent” had that same problem toward the end when Tris faced herself in the final fight sequence. Now, imagine that feeling stretched into two hours. And if it’s not bad enough that “Allegiant” is filled from the first scene to the last with an overabundance of CGI and green screen usage, none of it appears as if it was fully rendered in the editing process. It all comes across as choppy and second-rate.
Also, like “Insurgent,” Woodley and gang all have this look of disinterest in their facial expressions. Even Daniels – a newcomer to the series – doesn’t look like he wants to be in the film.
Woodley showed some emotion in the first and a little bit in the second. Here, it’s nowhere to be found. James mumbles his lines throughout, and Teller tries to bring some humor to this lifeless script. It works in some areas, but it’s not enough to give the film the boost it needs.
The “Divergent” films have all suffered from being too generic. Not a single film in this franchise has tried to do something daring and different for the young adult genre. Everything in “Allegiant” comes off as been there, done that. Whether it’s the recycled score or the horribly staged action sequences, it all has the feel of the same thing we’ve seen numerous times before. Even splitting the final book into two parts is something that’s been done before. And the only time that worked was with the last “Harry Potter.”
This franchise has also suffered from being too boring in general. Even with characters facing danger, the pacing has been a serious detriment to the films. “Allegiant” is no different. It drags itself to an anti-climatic finish, and reminds us that, yes, there is still one more of these lined up.