The Divergent series has done little to recommend itself. Its larger points have already been done and done better by many other works, its performances are at best sloppy and at worst phoned in entirely, and its production value, while high, teaches us that dropping money onto a pile of shit just makes the money shitty. However, Insurgent was at least marginally better than Divergent, and I had hoped that maybe Allegiant would make the leap to… not boring garbage. It made it about halfway there! It’s still garbage, but it’s somewhat less boring.
Allegiant opens on Tris (Shailene Woodley) and her still-too-old-for-her boyfriend Four a.k.a. Tobias (Theo James) watching a kangaroo court. Said kangaroo court is led by Four’s mom Evelyn (Naomi Watts), conceding to the calls for blood and having people from the previous administration executed (but there’s no blood, even when someone is shot in the face). This is met with disapproval by Johanna (Octavia Spencer), who is apparently prepared to start another civil war over this. Tris and her crew (including folks played by Miles Teller and Zoë Kravitz) decide to defy the edict barring people from leaving the city of Chicago in order to meet the other people on the outside, in the recovering wasteland. These other people comprise the Bureau, which has apparently been using Chicago as an experiment to repair “genetically damaged” people in the hopes of making someone “genetically pure.” Upon meeting Director David (Jeff Daniels), he informs Tris that she is the only success, the only “pure” person to arise from the experiment. Tris, Four, and their merry band of flat, two-dimensional friends must then stop the civil war, and liberate Chicago from the Bureau, and — hell, I watched the movie and I don’t even know.
This plot is convoluted, the motivations of each of the characters are stunningly unclear, and Tris somehow manages to be even more painfully flat than in the last two movies. Tris never seems to struggle with anything, and thus watching her succeed over and over is boring as hell. Tris has no apparent internal conflict, and while she is quick to defend the “damaged” as being as valuable as anyone who is “pure”, she doesn’t seem to have an issue with a dichotomous system that refers to her lover as “damaged.” Aside from this moment of sheer obliviousness, Tris is ethically perfect, and her only real flaw is not listening to the only person in the movie who is in fact a human being, i.e. her boyfriend.
Four becomes the protagonist at some point, which is a vast improvement for the film since he’s the most interesting character, has the greatest amount of personal and external conflict to cope with, and is really the only relatable person in the entire film. It helps Four’s case that the most exciting scenes of the film are the ones featuring surprisingly well done hand-to-hand fight choreography, and it is almost always Four at the center of them. Theo James needs an opportunity to actually be a real protagonist emoting in his own movie, because he alone seems to have risen above the material here. Even Miles Teller, really trying to earn his paycheck, can’t manage to make his character anything more than poorly-developed, if well-acted.
But setting aside the craft of the film, I find something deeply questionable about the fact that this movie, so determined to convince us that those deemed “damaged” by the powerful are in fact valuable, manages to have that point made most often and most insistently by a character deemed “pure.” It is one of the “superior” class standing up for the more lowly, more “damaged” people, and this not only undermines the point of the film, it has a strange ring of eugenics to it (it doesn’t really help that the genetically “pure” like to gas the “damaged” into submission, as a plot point). Prejudice in this world is weakly addressed and addressed primarily by one of the people it’s not really even aimed at anyway. It adds insult to injury that this genetically “pure” and perfect savior is a blonde-haired blue-eyed white girl. If Tris were one of of the people declared “damaged” and fighting for her right and the right of her people to be seen as equals, that would be one thing, but with her as one of the “pure”, and her seeming to have no issue with classifying people as inherently “damaged”, the film seems to contradict itself. Does it even realize that it is making a reference to eugenics, and one of the most brutal genocides in recorded human history?
Like Mockingjay before it, Allegiant is a film that seems determined to stick its foot into tense, sticky political themes without any apparent self-awareness or understanding of what it is implying. It doesn’t even have quality filmmaking to fall back on to defend itself. Is there anything about this film that is worthwhile? Nothing you couldn’t find anywhere else. The lighting is terrible, the sound mixing is terrible, the writing is godawful, and only three actors bothered to put in a real performance (shoutout to Theo James, Miles Teller, and the painfully underused Octavia Spencer). If you’re invested in this franchise for some reason, I am so, so sorry.Liked This? Share It!