Genre: Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi
Directed by: Robert Schwentke
Starring: Shailene Woodley, Zoë Kravitz, Naomi Watts, Theo James
One of the most important jobs of any kind of science fiction is making us believe in the world that its authors have designed for us. No matter what medium the world is presented in, no matter how absurd or inconceivable it may at first appear, we must believe in that science fiction world.
Perhaps that has been the major problem in translating Veronica Roth’s hugely successful Divergent series to the big screen. Having not read the books myself, I cannot say how successful Roth is in conveying the dystopian world of Chicago with its factions of Abnegation, Amity, Dauntess, Candor and Erudite. But given the series’ success, it’s safe to say that her skill as a wordsmith far outmatches the sheer lack of imagination and inventiveness that has plagued her series’ content.Whilst the first Divergent film was an entertaining, if derivative YA yarn, never once have I felt invested in Roth’s world on screen. Whether this has more to do with the way it has been realized, or simply that Roth’s world is simply too derivative of far superior works of its kind is hard to say. Going by the films, it’s clear that the series’ sheer lack of originality and this new film’s sheer lacklustre and sorrowful dullness, means this series will always struggle to carve a place for itself in the ever dwindling YA dystopian landscape.
Allegiant picks up in the immediate aftermath of Insurgent’s conclusion. With Janine dead, the factions have been disbanded and Chicago is a powder keg. Evelyn (a bored Naomi Watts) and Johanna (a bored Octavia Spencer) come to blows in the wake of the power vacuum left by Janine’s tyranny. Meanwhile, Tris (sporting her third new hairstyle of the series) and Four look to the world outside the walls, and hope to make contact with the people who put them here.
With civil war brewing and the city’s leaders “making all the same mistakes as before”, Tris, Four and a bunch of others defy their leaders once again and venture out into the “Fringe”: a baron, radiated wasteland straight out of a Mad Max movie. Out here, Tris and her squad discover another band of survivors of some overly complicated cataclysmic war who, as it turns out, have been watching them inside Chicago whilst studying genes, or something. As it turns out, Tris is really special (shock!) and is “pure” (whatever that means), which means she’s really special. Did I mention that Tris is really special? But of course, it isn’t long before she and Four discover that not all is what it seems.The biggest problem Allegiant suffers from is that everything feels utterly uninspired. Once again, the seemingly perfect society has a dark, corrupted core; its well dressed leader is also something of a malicious tyrant; Tris is repeatedly told she’s special; a sinister plot to attack a particular group of people and blah blah blah blah. Every single idea, character and plot point is merely repackaged and repurposed, so in the end the whole thing just becomes painstakingly dull. Any good ideas this story might have had were jettisoned long ago in favour of generic tropes and clichés, without even so much as a wink and nod to its forebears.
Not to mention that pretty much every member of the cast looks increasingly bored by this point, only here because their contracts stipulate they be; so much so that any potential for emotional heft is rendered inert. One character’s death is dealt with and forgotten about so quickly that five minutes later you forget that said character even existed. While other characters, such as Zoe Kravitz’s Christina, might as well not exist; they bring so little to the plot and proceedings other than the fact that they existed in the source material.
It’s a wonder that Roth’s series was any success at all, rather than simply dismissed as a redundant, cheap Hunger Games knock off when it was first published. Of course, the major downside of all this is that we still have one more installment in this tired and worn franchise left before it can finally be put out of its misery.