Allegiant Fails To Diverge From Predecessors

Ben Atwater

For the past ten years or so, there has been a fascination with young adult novels. These novels tend to have similar themes of post apocalypses with young adults who are destined to save the entire planet from authoritarian rule. Whether we are talking about The Hunger Games, The Maze Runner, or Divergent, these novels naturally have had film adaptations. In most cases, these movies come off as something between a SyFy original movie and a blockbuster. With more production value than these low budget films, yet not enough spectacle to merit being called a true popcorn flick, these new young adult films have mostly been very average, and often rip off far superior efforts. The one exception is The Hunger Games series, which has transcended the young adult genre through great direction, smooth visuals, deep political subtext, and solid acting performance.

Divergent came out in 2014. Not familiar with the novels myself, I accompanied attendees hoping for an interesting sci-fi. What we got was a Hunger Games wannabe that shared concepts but failed at execution. With terrible CGI, horrible acting performances, especially that of star Shailene Woodley, and a laughable cliché ridden script, Divergent was one of the worse films I have seen in theaters. The sequel, Insurgent, came out one year later. Giving the unlikable Tris a boy haircut, Insurgent looked just as bad, yet I cannot attest as I have not seen the film. However, this Spring Break, boredom led me to go to the opening night of the third installment, Allegiant.

Miles Teller in Allegiant (AP photo)
Miles Teller in Allegiant
(AP photo)

The world of Divergent takes place in a dystopian future (sound familiar) where the supposed remnants of humanity live in the ruins of Chicago after a nuclear war. All residents are sorted into factions, where they occupy different jobs. The main character is Tris, played by Woodley. Tris is special as she does not fit into any faction, and is labeled divergent. Through the course of the first film, Tris meets a group of friends who defy the mandated factions and seek out the truth of their society. Not having seen the second film, the third films picks up after corrupt faction rule has been abolished. Yet powers in Chicago still conceal the truth, and Tris and company venture outside of the city to find the world is a desert wasteland, akin to The Scorch Trials and Mad Max: Fury Road. And like all young adult films, it turns out there is a separate society operating from the wasteland. Headed by Jeff Daniels, this compound takes Tris and company in to be a part of their high tech base. Yet soon it is discovered that not all is so bliss, as anyone could have predicted.

Without delving more into plot for spoiler’s sake, Allegiant is admittedly more enjoyable than the first installment. Woodley is very unlikable as Tris, and unlike the first film, Allegiant, focuses on the world building instead, despite the fact that is riddled with sci-fi clichés. Much of the focus is given to the four main characters, the love interest of Tris, as well as Miles Teller, a former enemy turned ally of Tris. Yet this does not make these dry characters any more likable. Quite frankly, Miles Teller seems to be the only one that captures attention on screen. Teller is a world class actor, and after Whiplash, it is a shame to see him in generic schlock like this. Even Jeff Daniels, who just recently gave a career defining performance in The Martian, seems to be phoning it in here, and does not get invested into his poorly written role. The CGI is even worse than in the first film. The wasteland looks entirely stale and inactive, much due to the green screen. What makes the desert landscape in Fury Road so engrossing was the fact that the real desert in Namibia was the backdrop, not second rate computer graphics. The screenplay is just awful, with little attention given to consistency or chemistry.

While more entertaining than Divergent, Allegiant is still an awful film that is a clear cash grab to capitalize on recent trends of dystopian young adult stories. Not having read the novels by Veronica Roth, it is unclear whether the source material is bland as well or if Lionsgate has just not succeeded in finding talent. Don’t waste your money on Allegiant; skip this film.