The Divergent series is shockingly late to the party. Sure, it is not the worst film franchise in existence (Transformers, Twilight still share that honour proudly). However, with the underwhelming execution of the Hunger Games franchise and blissful surprises the Maze Runner movies deliver, Divergent sits with the rest of the broken, forgotten young adult entries like The 5th Wave and The Giver. Indeed, this trend has yielded significantly more misses than hits.
Divergent: Allegiant – the third of four useless instalments based on Veronica Roth’s best-selling books – marks the process of yet another franchise to divide the final chapter in half. Seriously, the greedy, amoral studio executives who came up with this idea owe the general audience billions of dollars along with a lengthy explanation. Like the Hobbit, Hunger Games, Twilight, and Harry Potter franchises before it, Allegiant holds everything back for the fourth instalment to pick up.
Situated in dystopian Chicago, the human population – after the cataclysmic events of the preceding entry – run towards the wall to uncover what the fringe and the rest of Earth have to offer. However, Evelyn (Naomi Watts), the new leader of the city’s five factions and ‘factionless’ peoples, shuts down the perimeter and executes the minions supporting Jeanine (Kate Winslet)’s regime. Turning against Evelyn, peaceful faction leader Johanna (Octavia Spencer), and the new world order, Tris (Shailene Woodley), Four (Theo James), Caleb (Ansel Elgort), Christina (Zoe Kravitz), Peter (Miles Teller), and Tori (Maggie Q) escape the hostile situation to uncover what exactly is behind the wall.
Our troupe of Supermodel lead characters reach the edge, met with a society led by David (Jeff Daniels) watching Chicago’s every move. From the get-go, like The Hunger Games and Maze Runner, the plot resembles a mish-mash of YA clichés designed to attract the lowest common denominator. Predictably, the major revelation revolves around whether or not their world is either real or a brain-shattering simulation. Director Robert Schwentke (RIPD, Insurgent) never highlights the difference, painting every frame with a CGI-heavy brush. The movie’s bright, shiny allure and lack of depth represents all of Hollywood’s worst impulses in creating entertainment for younger audiences.
Indeed, the film fulfils its promise of looking expensive. Although handing half of its budget to its cast, the franchise’s dystopian and utopian landscapes are almost worth the admission cost. Chicago’s run-down, post-apocalyptic vistas look impressive. Its unconvincing CGI draws attention to the seams, outlining the impracticality of the action, the world, its technological advancements, and David’s dastardly plan. Despite the resources on offer, the movie’s creativity resembles that of every 5-Gum advertisement. The movie’s steel-grey interiors, spotless exteriors, and slew of pretty people turn this ‘important’ instalment into a near parody of this slowly dying genre.
The cast overcomes a dour, undercooked script and lack of focus to get off scot-free. Woodley, one of Hollywood’s most intriguing young actresses, is a likeable presence as her world’s one and only hope. James and Elgort are given little to explore in lunkheaded roles. Miles Teller is a standout, providing a Han Solo-esque level of charisma and sarcastic wit to his minor supporting role. Meanwhile, established performers including Watts, Daniels, Spencer, Q, Mekhi Phifer, Daniel Dae Kim, and Ray Stevenson are sorely underutilised.
Divergent: Allegiant is a significant waste of time, energy, money, and resources for all involved – proving just how out of touch your average studio executive is with the general audience. Bring on Ascendent next year, I suppose.
Review: Thomas Munday