This review is also up at Channel 24
What it's about
Tris and the rest of our young heroes finally escape Chicago and find what lies beyond those walls is an answer to everything that they've been searching for but also conceal dangers far more deadly than they could ever have expected.
What we thought
The Divergent series has always been something of a loser in the YA dystopian future genre with its lack of clear direction and one of the stupidest premises around. While the third of this four part trilogy (yup, they split up the last book into two) spends much of its running time trying to justify the latter and fix the former, it still utterly fails to understand what made something like the Hunger Games series work as well as it usually did.
The series' central idea that human beings could be so neatly divided into categories based on our dominant character traits has always been more than a little idiotic as anyone with even the most superficial knowledge of psychology knows that not only is it utterly impossible to define anyone by a single trait, most character traits ebb and flow according to all sorts of external and internal factors. All human beings would be “divergent”, in other words, so the whole cast system on which this dystopian future is based made absolutely no sense from the very beginning.
Allegiant does, to its credit, try and address this but the half-assed explanation that it all has to do with gene tampering doesn't make much sense either and seems contrary to the fact that there doesn't actually seem to be a noticeable difference between the “pure” and the “broken”. Worse, it's all spelled out by a smirking Jeff Daniels in, lets be honest, show-me-the-money form, as part of a huge chunk of exposition that is both endless and ultimately unsatisfying.
As for the series' weird lack of focus, both thematically and narratively, Allegiant follows its immediate predecessor in being both entirely reliant on the events of what came before but, at the same time, feeling distant from them too. The series' silly premise wasn't just moronic in and of itself but it was pitched with such a lack of confidence that as the series moves on it desperately tries to pile more and more plot on top of it in the hope that no one would notice that it didn't really add up to very much in the first place.
As it is, though, some of the new stuff is pretty enjoyable, even if it doesn't add to anywhere near enough to justify a whole movie – or at least half a movie in this case. There's a fun retro design sense here that plays out like something out of Star Trek and even if its all as unoriginal as everything else in the film, at least it gives it a change in aesthetics from the dour dystopian vistas of its predecessors for something shinier and, at the best of times (those ludicrous bubble things that are supposed to be good forms of transportation), goofier.
It also has to be said that even with its paper-thin plot, its ludicrous premise and its fatally underdeveloped characters, Allegiant, much like its predecessors, is still a bit more fun than something this crap should be. Not so much in a so-bad-it's-good kind of way but in the sense that the top-notch cast is good enough to hold our attention (though only Miles Teller actually looks like he's having any fun at all) and the direction by Robert Schwentke (The Time Travelers Wife, Red), though relatively straightforward, does give everything at least a bit of vigour. Not a lot of vigour, mind, but at least its not completely dead on its feet.
I'm still quite looking forward to this whole thing being over, though, to be honest.