First of all for those who know Shailene Woodley before the Divergent series, she is an immensely talented young actress. Some of her best performances are from films such as ‘The Descendants,’ ‘The Spectacular Now,’ and ‘The Fault in Our Stars.’ You cannot blame her for getting on the dystopian YA bandwagon. With the success of The Hunger Games franchise, portraying strong heroines that save the world from evil have become hot properties. Woodley does her best with the material but it is unfortunate that the last book in the trilogy has been stretched to two films. ‘Allegiant’ seems like it’s lost some of its momentum as we approach the finish line to the finale titled ‘Ascendant’ due out in 2017.
As George Clooney aptly once commented, “It’s possible for me to make a bad movie out of a good script, but I can’t make a good movie from a bad script.” That seems to be the case with the story here penned by three screenwriters Noah Oppenheim, Adam Cooper and Bill Collage. It feels like a half-baked plot. Director Robert Schwentke (R.I.P.D.) gives it his best effort with some interesting special effects like drones used as honing devices and flying egg-shaped pods but the story is lost with too much exposition. Gone is the original ‘Divergent’ film that director Neil Burger so effectively established as a clever teen drama that portrayed the five factions (Erudite, Abnegation, Candor, Dauntless and Amity) that mirrored high school cliques. It was an intelligent and faithful way to kickstart Veronica Roth’s original source material from the first novel.
‘Allegiant’ shows us the result of the uprising in war-torn Chicago. The five factions are now dissolved. The new leader Evelyn (Naomi Watts) shoots Jeanine (sorely missed Kate Winslet) and overthrows her regime. Her followers turn into an angry mob and seek justice by doing away with anyone associated with the Erudite faction. Evelyn also decides to keep the citizens walled off by a massive barrier surrounding the entire city. Tris (Woodley) and her remaining crew including her love interest Four (Theo James), her brother Caleb (Ansel Elgort), her Dauntless bestie Christina (Zoe Kravitz) and the conniving Peter (Miles Teller) are curious to discover what’s out there beyond the wall. The escape plan sequence of them scaling the wall is one of the most exciting parts of the film. The problem is that instead of finding a utopia, they are forced to trudge through a toxic wasteland that looks like Mars.
Eventually they are intercepted by a group calling themselves the Bureau of Genetic Welfare (formerly O’Hare Airport turned into a high-tech oasis). Tris meets the leader, David (Jeff Daniels) who is in charge of leading a project to turn damaged humans into a pure genetic state. How many times have we seen Daniels in this kind of role? This is where the story gets completely muddled with too much exposition about genomes. David basically tells her that she is the only genetically pure human out there. Tris doesn’t understand what it all means and we share in the confusion right along with her. You will be relieved when Tris has had enough of David’s gibberish and realizes the real fight is back in Chicago. This is when Tris breaks out of her passive shell and snaps back into her rebel leader mode.
Alas, ‘Allegiant’ is just a place-holder for the final installment ‘Ascendant.’ On the bright side, Woodley will see this journey through to the bitter end and rise above the dystopian ashes. While we’re waiting for the final chapter in the Divergent series, revisit Woodley’s earlier works (White Bird in a Blizzard, The Spectacular Now and The Fault in Our Stars) that truly showcase her amazing talent. Check out the official ‘Allegiant’ trailer https://youtu.be/0G0C-vMHcQY.