Even on the best of days, a franchise is all about diminishing returns.
The inevitable conversion of the final book of a Young Adult series into two movies assumes we’ll end up wanting more. The Divergent Series: Allegiant picks up almost immediately after the events of Insurgent but never gives us any of the genuine drama as we just see a set of characters tackling some of the exact same problems that they just had to deal with in the last movie.
With Jeanine now gone, Tris (Shailene Woodley) and Four (Theo James) are more determined than ever to cross over the wall that encircles Chicago to discover the truth behind everything that is going on and find some peace for their city on the verge of tearing itself apart. Once on the outside, they quickly learn that what they thought was truth is anything but as the enigmatic David (Jeff Daniels) and his “Bureau For Genetic Welfare” are not their salvation but an evil that nobody expected. Tris is forced to make some hard choices in order to survive and not promote a version of humanity that would eliminate everyone and everything that she holds dear.
Half a story doesn’t make a whole movie no matter how much the studio may want it to. This first half of the final book just highlights some of the storytelling weakness and holes in the Young Adult genre in which things just consistently repeat themselves. I’m not surprised that director Robert Schwentke decided not to return for the final installment as Allegiant is really forcing itself on the audiences as a recycling of events that happened before.
The narrative moves well enough along, the problem is that nothing really happens and we are given some awkward plot points. The script from Noah Oppenheim, Adam Cooper and Bill Collage lets everyone down as they are obviously saving most of the big and emotionally compelling moments for the second half of this story (aka Ascendant, coming to theatres in June 2017). The visual effects and action play well enough but only in the movie business has it been deemed acceptable to sell an audience ½ of a story and ask them to like it.
Unfortunately Shailene and Theo can’t rise above the weak material, their chemistry gets strained and since their forbidden love story was one of the draws of the original two films, this descends into a sci-fi procedural where we are waiting for the other shoe to drop. Jeff Daniels plays the monotonous administrator a little too well as he almost shifts into the background of the story and we barely remember that he is there. Ansel Englort, Zoe Kravitz, Miles Teller, Naomi Watts, Octavia Spenser, Maggie Q, Jonny Weston and Daniel Dae Kim all reprise their roles reasonably well while Nadia Hilker, Bill Skarsgard, Xander Berkeley and Rebecca Pidgeon add some additional flavour, it never felt like the agenda of a single character got advanced in any way. Allegiant is just another two hours that we have to wait before getting to the pay off from what we kind of cared about back in Insurgent.
Ultimately, Allegiant will make money as we all line up and wait for the final installment. However, it would have been nice for the filmmakers and studios to try and end this trilogy the proper way and give Young Adult audiences a large sprawling movie that would have challenged them, rather than some dull placeholder pablum.