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Film review: Allegiant

Film & TV

The third movie in the series based on Veronica Roth’s trilogy of dystopian Divergent novels, the Robert Schwentke-directed “Allegiant”, is as depressing to watch as it must be to live in her post-apocalyptic Chicago.

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It is a cynical exercise that assumes interest from fans of the novels and the preceding two movies will be sufficient to generate viewer demand. It’s an extreme case of motion pictures as industry and not art.

The story speaks about issues of conformity and control, and inhumanity, within a society where citizens have previously been split into five factions. Allegiant ambles off in the direction of such binaries as inside/outside world, enemy/ally and truth/lie without offering real insight. It goes through the motions. Sadly, much of this is delivered via truckloads of exposition and is dressed up with clunky CGI effects.

Some of the fun in watching movies where continuity matters so much is in spotting the goofs. That’s almost an industry, and there is ammunition in Allegiant for those so inclined. There is also much to be made of references to other movies – what some might call intertextual nods, or homage, if not simply lazy copying. Allegiant borrows cinematically and substantially from the social commentary of 1984, the ruined desert setting and action moments in the latest Mad Max: Fury Road, and the central conceit that amused in The Truman Show but which is tired and predictable here.

In fact, that is one of the most prominent factors that let this movie down – its lack of originality. The premise is not new and its expression is predictable, the latter a cardinal sin. Even my 16-year-old groaned at one of the key scenes, not from the intended sadness of the moment, but because she had gleaned, to the second, what was being set up to occur.

The woefully acted villain, David (Jeff Daniels), runs the Bureau of Genetic Welfare on a budget derived from the Providence council. The green and shiny oases have no apparent industries to sustain them, let alone enable investment in omniscience tech activities that require audience disbelief to be handed in upon entering the cinema.

Another key disappointment is the acting – did I mention Jeff Daniels’ role? None of the characters generates screen presence. They are often insipid, robotic or stock figures (or all three) that fail to bring to life a story already labouring under the weight of its own derivative intentions.

Shailene Woodley as protagonist Tis has to do wrong in order to realise what is right, but why should we care? Her function is largely to be the focus of someone else’s obscure ambitions before emerging a wiser person. Four (Theo James), her warrior love interest, makes a few simpering moves to show his affection but he is really there to fight in some set action pieces. I could run through the list of others but my heart sinks at the prospect.

The central characters are mostly posturing, pretty people, and unlikely as such, to represent the population of the city from which they are drawn – though the choice is solidly in line with box-office aspirations. Speaking of that, the take in Allegiant’s opening days in the US is apparently down enough for the producers of the next movie in the franchise to already be discussing budget cuts.

Allegiant is half of the third Divergent book and even ardent fans may baulk at another attempt to wring extra funds from their pockets in this manner. It ends weakly on what is meant to be an uplifting note. The movie has the hallmarks of being hurried and there is not a single moment in which you can say real excitement is generated.

I would not suggest viewers rush to see it, or even dawdle there, unless compulsive about this franchise.


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