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Fans of the Divergent book series no doubt care about the character of Tris Prior. They have followed her through hell and back across three books and would follow her through anything. No matter how taxing. The question is, how does this compare with the film series? One answer to that is that it might not compare in the slightest, depending on who you are. For many, the book experience is unanimously the better one. One that fans have no problems delving into again and again.
The films however, may be good experiences, but there is much to be said about the difference in quality with succeeding films in a series, particularly when it feels less than what it started out as. Unless of course you’re a die hard, then everything would be just fine. Unfortunately, with The Divergent Series: Allegiant that isn’t always the case.
Picking up immediately where last year’s Insurgent left off, the tyrant Jeanine (Kate Winslet) is gone and with her departure, order swiftly followed. The faction system is no more, Chicago is in disarray and in need of a leader. When Johanna (Octavia Spencer) approaches Tris (Shailene Woodley) about becoming one of the leaders of a newly reformed Chicago, Tris wants no part of it. Instead, she yearns to move beyond the walls of the city and find what else is out there.
Against the wishes of Evelyn (Naomi Watts), the new leader of crumbling Chicago, Tris and Four (Theo James) escape the confines of the city after breaking out Caleb (Ansel Elgort) and scooping up Peter (Miles Teller) and Christina (Zoë Kravitz). During their travels in the outside world, they are surprised to find a vast land that is desolate and dead. When they are confronted by their potential captors, they are rescued by a mysterious group of soldiers who take them to a place where they are seemingly safe from danger. There, Tris meets The Director, David (Jeff Daniels), who is supposed to help change the current state of affairs in Chicago.
What does this all mean? It means, as it usually does in these YA adaptations at this juncture, that all of this is merely the buildup to the grand dramatic conclusion. This can amount to either an interesting take, or commentary even, on what is essentially a long teaser for the end of the story, or it could amount to unnecessary filler, which for better or worse, Allegiant holds more of the latter than it does the former.
There are some fair action sequences here. Nothing particularly riveting, but passable. The cinematography is decent and manages to capture such sequences as well as areas of the unique world from the desolate, rundown landscape to the more industrial and at times pristine Bureau of Genetic Welfare well enough that we get a sense of where we are. The strongest aspects of all of this though, are the film’s actors. Who all do their best, but unfortunately, the script doesn’t come with much for the actors to work with.
Woodley as always, is good, in spite of the film oddly feeling like it is sidelining her – in what is essentially her story, which is a shame. Octavia Spencer, for what little screen time she has, manages to make the most of her presence, turning in a performance that is at once quietly understated and electric. Miles Teller comes complete with his A-game as Peter. Again we continue to enjoy disliking this guy almost as much as Teller seems to be enjoying playing the role. He does a fine job with the lighting quick delivery and duplicitous portrayal of a guy who is out only for himself.
The great and versatile Jeff Daniels is as good as he can be considering the issues with how his character was written here. Daniels plays a powerful man with motives that aren’t apparent at first glance, and on paper that sounds like the most interesting character this far in the series. However, the writing is to blame for how it seems to dictate how Daniels should play David and how certain things are revealed about him. There ends up being no real weight to him and no real threat.
Speaking of the lack of weight, the removal of certain characters, even ones whose subtraction should carry some heft, carried no emotional weight whatsoever. This is particularly disappointing because the feeling is that these characters are just like the nameless enemies our heroes face, which isn’t true. Some characters deserve more. Some fans deserve more.
The fact of the matter is, that this isn’t a great movie. Honestly, who might have guessed that it would be? There was no real indication of this, though it might have been nice to be pleasantly surprised. Is it a terrible movie? Not quite. It just isn’t as strong as it could have been. That said, it is the weakest entry of the series thus far. May the next, and final film in the Divergent series, at least bring enough of the heat to send Tris and company out on a good note.