Monday 11 April 2016

Film Review: Allegiant

One step forward, two steps back. Allegiant is another long, young adult slog that is strictly for fans.

Originally sprung from the success of the vastly superior Hunger Games franchise, the flaws within the Divergent series now shine brighter than ever in its monotonous third entry, Allegiant.

Following the events of 2015’s Insurgent, feisty freedom fighter Tris Prior (Shailene Woodley) and her chiselled beau Four (Theo James) plot to vault the walls surrounding Chicago and discover the truth that is promised beyond the sprawling wasteland that surrounds them. With Evelyn (Naomi Watts) asserting herself as leader atop the warring factions, a band of rebels fronted by Johanna (Octavia Spencer) continue the fight back home – but a new threat, the technological Bureau, lead by David (Jeff Daniels), threatens to render their war moot with a plan of his own.

Allegiant, unfortunately, is a step backward for the Divergent series. Despite the two proceeding films, Allegiant still feels as though it’s assembling building blocks rather than exploring them or better still, knocking them down. The entire film introduces us to the brand new world outside the walls of Chicago, but it only poses questions without offering answers, incident or resolution.

It’s a film where the most exciting character development is Woodley’s new haircut; where the most engaging action sequence is an aerial dogfight that’s lumbered with jarring shaky-cam; and with a generic third act sees our band of heroes squaring off with yet another immoral baby-boomer out to destroy everything.

It’s not utterly devoid of upsides; Woodley’s earnest and likeable lead performance will appeal to equally eager teens, whilst her chemistry with James gets a shot in the arm this time around. Miles Teller plays the morally bankrupt Peter and any scene that features his smarmy grin and sardonic wisecracks is guaranteed to land at least one genuine laugh. Screenwriters Noah Oppenheim, Adam Cooper and Bill Collage have wisely given Teller a lot more to do this time around and his detestable character is a genuine highlight of the film.

And yet, his is practically the only character with anything that vaguely resembles a personality. Respected actors like Watts, Daniels and Spencer are utterly wasted in this series as they obediently stand of their marks, deliver unflattering exposition and swiftly depart for the next scene to do the exact same thing again.

It’s a film so lost in its own jargon that non-book readers will be utterly lost, and even those who have thumbed through Veronica Roth’s trilogy will struggle; for some asinine reason, the film feels compelled to diverge wildly from the source text in the third act. The reason? To leave it open for a fourth film, of course. 

The Verdict: 4/10

Lionsgate would’ve had high hopes for the series when it launched back in 2014; maybe they had expected to ride on the coattails of The Hunger Games to bumper box office hauls and extensive spin-off merchandise and media. But following Allegiant, the Divergent series is in poorer health than ever. It’s a long slog that doesn’t offer anything more than the promise of another film this time next year, and unless you’re a fan of Woodley or the source text, I can’t recommend that you check it out.

Allegiant is in cinemas across Australia from Thursday April 14.

This review was originally published over at Hooked on Film, a Perth based website where you can find even more new release movie reviews, features, interviews and insight. Click here to check it out.

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