Tuesday, March 22, 2016

It Came From The Cineplex: The Divergent Series: Allegiant

Divergent 3, Part 1, also known as The Divergent Series: Allegiant, was written by Stephen Chbosky, Bill Collage, Adam Cooper and Noah Oppenheim (Jesus, did it really take four people to write this thing?). It was directed by Robert Schwentke.

Chbosky previously wrote Rent and The Perks Of Being A Wallflower, both of which make him the perfect choice to pen a post-apocalyptic young adult thriller. Collage and Cooper are writing partners who previously collaborated on Accepted, Exodus: Gods And Kings and The Transporter Refueled, all of which were horrible, horrible pieces of cimema. They also worked on Of Kings And Prophets, ABC's sexy biblical series (really!) and Game Of Thrones clone that was cancelled after airing just two episodes. Oppenheim previously wrote The Maze Runner, which is yet another mediocre Young Adult series, and explains a lot.

Schwentke previously directed Flightplan, The Time Traveler's Wife, Red, R.I.P.D. and The Divergent Series: Insurgent.

Allegiant is based on the Divergent series of books by Veronica Roth, and is a sequel to Divergent and The Divergent Series: Insurgent.

When The Hunger Games became a surprise hit in 2012, Lionsgate Studios immediately began snapping up Young Adult novels, including The Divergent Series, hoping to recreate that success. Unfortunately for them, that hasn't been the case, as the Divergent series has grossed far less than the various Hunger Games films.

The reasons are obvious. Divergent just doesn't have the same sense of danger or urgency. In The Hunger Games the stakes are incredibly high, as teens are forced to hunt and kill one another to survive. In Divergent, teens are forced to pick one of five Factions in which to live and work. Seriously. That's it. Mandatory job placement, which is something many people in our current economy would kill to have. The horror. The horror...

And then Lionsgate wonders why these films aren't box office smashes.

Additionally, The Divergent Series can't even be bothered to stick with its own premise. The main concept of The Hunger Games— that of televised killing— was prevalent (to a degree) in every film. The "Forced Factions" premise of Divergent is dropped after the first movie, as the story quickly devolves into a muddled, plotless mess.

In the past five years or so, it's become the trend for movie studios to split the final installment of a series into two films, as a blatant and obvious cash grab. It happened with the Harry Potter series, Twilight and The Hunger Games

Lionsgate pulls the same stunt here, splitting the final Divergent book, Allegiant, into two parts. Unfortunately there was barely enough material for one film, much less two, which results in a dull, slow and bloated narrative. Seriously, you can almost feel the padding. Halfway through I was checking my watch, trying to will the hands to move faster.

Apparently I'm not the only one who's had it with these transparent attempts to generate more cash for the studio coffers. Allegiant had the lowest ever opening for a Divergent film, managing to rake in an anemic $30 million against its $110 million budget. This has prompted Lionsgate to announce it's slashing the budget of the fourth and final film in the series. 

Good. Serves 'em right for gouging their audience.


The Plot:
Now that the evil Jeanine is dead, Evelyn (played by Naomi Watts) has taken control of Chicago. Our heroine Tris (played by Shailene Woodley) and the ridiculously named Four (played by Theo James) watch as Evelyn puts everyone from the Erudite faction on trial. Instead or learning from Jeanine's mistakes, Evelyn repeats the same old patterns by executing the Erudites. Johanna, leader of Amity urges peace, but is ignored.

Tris' brother Caleb is one of the Erudites and is scheduled for execution. Four uses his status as Evelyn's son to sneak Caleb out of his cell. Tris, Four, Caleb, Christina (played by Zoe Kravitz) and Tori (played by Maggie Q) board a vehicle and intend to climb over the wall and escape into whatever's on the other side. Suddenly Peter, the Designated Asshole™ of the series, approaches and blackmails them into taking him along. Despite the fact that he's betrayed them numerous times and even tried to kill them, amazingly they bring him along. Peter is played by Ted Cruz, er, I mean Miles Teller, and may just be my all-time least favorite actor.

By the way, don't worry about keeping track of all these names. You'd have to be a massive uber-fan to know who even half of these characters are.

The group reaches the wall and use grappling hooks to scale it. Evelyn's main goon Edgar pursues Tris & Co., trying to prevent them from going over the wall. They all make it over except for Tori, who's shot and killed by Edgar. Dammit. Maggie Q gets killed, but Miles Teller lives on and on.

The group makes it over the wall and finds the only thing on the other side is a red-tinted wasteland that may or may not be radioactive. Suddenly the sky splits open before them as the hidden "cammo wall" opens. They're taken to a high tech facility on the former site of O'Hare Airport, called the Bureau Of Genetic Welfare. According to the Bureau's propaganda film, they strive to fix the Earth after a global catastrophe. Tris & Co. are cleaned up and processed, and even given jobs.

Tris meets David (played by Jeff Daniels), the Director of the Bureau. David (no last names, please) tells her that Chicago, with its faction system, is a giant living experiment, designed to produced a genetically perfect specimen, or something. He says Tris is the genetically pure result of the experiment, and all her friends are "damaged" in one way or another. He says that for years they've been using their advanced imaging machinery to watch her, and everything that happens in Chicago.

Meanwhile Caleb, who's been assigned to monitor Chicago, sees that Evelyn and Johanna (who now calls her people the Allegiant) are planning to go to war with one another. Four is assigned to the Bureau's military, and raids a Fringe settlement and captures its children. He's uneasy about this, but is even more horrified when the captured kids are dosed with an amnesia gas. Again with the mind control!

David tells Tris he plans to use her genetic pureness to somehow cleanse the world or something. Honestly none of his plan makes the least bit of sense. He takes her to Providence (whether he means Providence, Rhode Island or some futuristic colony called Providence, I have no idea) to present his plan to the Council. They're as puzzled as the audience, and tell him his experiment is a failure and they're cutting his funding. David is furious as they return to the Bureau.

Caleb is told there's no place for him in the Bureau and is taken back to Chicago. His escorts try to kill him, but he fights them off, crashing the flying ship in the process. He's captured and taken back to Chicago.

David, who's stopped trying to pretend he's not evil, recognizes that Peter is a sneaky little sh*t just like him. He sends Peter on a mission to Chicago, to deliver a shipment of the amnesia gas to Evelyn, so she can win the war against Johanna and re-institute the Factions. Again, none of this makes the least bit of sense, but just roll with it or we'll never be done with this series.

Tris steals David's ship, picks up Christina (who has absolutely nothing to do in this film) and Caleb, and they head back to Chicago. Once there, Tris is reunited with Four, and they confront Evelyn, who releases the amnesia gas on the Alegilant. Four tries to tell her that the gas will actually spread throughout the entire city, wiping everyone's memories. She changes her mind and tries to stop it, as Peter shoots her in the back. Just then the gas begins pouring into his room as well.

Tris crawls through a tunnel to get to the main shutoff valve or something, and ultimately stops the gas. Peter escapes so he can betray Tris & Co. in the fourth movie.

Tris broadcasts a poor quality hologram to the entire city, saying she rejects the "pure" and "damaged" labels, and they have to unite to defeat their oppressors. Tris and Four embrace, as an image of David, that the audience can see and they can't, glares at the two. That's it? That's the lame-ass "cliffhanger" ending they decided to go with?


• There's no "Previously on The Divergent Series" recap, so if you insist on seeing this film and don't remember what happened last year, you might want to scan the wikipedia page before you go.

I wish I had refreshed my memory, because when the film started up I had a hard time remembering who the hell all these people were supposed to be, and what they were doing. These YA movies all tend to run together after a while.

• Man, that is one butt-ugly movie poster. Look at that thing! It's a washed out, cobbled-together Photoshop disaster, that looks like the designer assembled it on his laptop as he was driving to the production meeting to present it to the studio.

Additionally, that's not how real reflections work— the perspective of the black clad Tris is all wrong. And I'm betting the rest of the actors just lovvvvve the fact that they all appear upside down, and are virtually unrecognizable.

This version's much better, but even it has its problems. Like the fact that there're at least three different perspectives, and the heads have all been crudely pasted onto someone else's bodies. When exactly did Hollywood forget how to make good movie posters?

• This film reportedly had a $110 million dollar budget. I have no idea where all that cash went, but it surely wasn't up on the screen. Somehow it manages to look like a cheap Siffy Channel original film.

• As Tris & Co. are preparing to sneak away from the city and go over the wall, Peter suddenly appears and demands to go with them. Astonishingly, they say, "Why that sounds just fine," and bring him along.

Why do the characters keep trusting Peter? He's a lying, cheating, sneaking little asshole who's sold them out, betrayed them and even tried to kill them over and over in every movie so far. And later on he does the same thing in this one. 

Why doesn't Four just shoot him in his punchable face and get it over with?

• Tris and her pals climb up the side of the massive wall, and then find that the top is electrified. Why just the top would be charged and not the entire thing, I have no idea. To conserve power, perhaps? 

Anyway, Tris spots a generator truck— on her side of the wall, mind you— and repels back down and blows it up.

So is this wall supposed to keep people in, or out? I don't think it's supposed to keep invaders out, because at this point in the series most people believe there's nothing outside the wall. 

If it's supposed to keep people in, then why in the name of Zeus' Mighty Nose Hair would you put the off switch on the inner side of the fence, where it can easily be accessed?

• One last thing about the fence. Tris and her posse use grappling hooks to climb the wall, which appears to be five hundred feet tall. Maybe more. Once they reach the top, they repel down the other side, then continue down a rough, rocky cliff face that goes down another five hundred feet or so. 

Jesus, how long are those ropes?

• The group trudges across a lifeless wasteland until they reach another massive wall. This one is much more sophisticated though, as it uses holographic projectors to look like the surrounding terrain and sky. 

The characters all call this structure the "camo-wall," as in "camouflage." Unfortunately it sounded like they were saying "camel wall." It took me a while to figure out what they were really trying to say.

• Tris and the others are welcomed into the Bureau Of Genetic Welfare, which, according to the propaganda recordings, is built on top of what was O'Hare Airport. In a cutesy scene that's obviously supposed to be funny, Caleb asks, "What's an airport?" 

Derp! Caleb's from the Erudite clan. They're supposed to be the smart ones. So what exactly are these smarties taught? Yeah, yeah, this is all happening two or three hundred years in the future, after some atomic war or something, but even if airplanes no longer exist, wouldn't there be records of them?

• It's no secret that I am not a fan of actor Miles Teller. He may be a perfectly nice person for all I know, but there's just something about his face that makes me want to punch it. In fact it's all I can do right now to not ram my fist through my monitor. Maybe it's the fact that Teller looks a lot like the secret love child of simpering ninny and presidential candidate Ted Cruz.

That said, Teller comes the closest to turning in an actual performance here. He at least tries to inject a bit of personality into the Peter character, as opposed to his mannequin-like costars. 

Peter constantly refers to Tris as "Stiff," which is supposed to be a comment on the fact that she's always so serious or something, but I like to think it's Miles Teller secretly bashing Shailene Woodley's acting "talent."

• Nothing about these Divergent films has ever made any sense, and that goes double for this one. As near as I can figure, the plot goes something like this:
— Two or three hundred years ago there was a war that wiped out most of humanity. 
— A group of scientists got together and formed the Bureau Of Genetic Welfare. They set up the Faction experiment in the ruins of Chicago. Over time, splitting people into five different Factions would somehow create a perfect genetic specimen. 
–– Tris is the genetically pure result of this experiment.
— The Bureau has been using sophisticated technology to monitor Chicago for centuries, and now that Tris has escaped the city, they welcome her into their fold for… reasons. 
I think this is what happens in the films, but honest to god I'm not sure, and gave up trying to understand it all during the previous movie.

• So why does David want Tris so badly? Is he going to clone her? Mate her with a genetically pure male that we don't know about, so they can start up a new super race? Apparently it's none of our business, as David's plan is never adequately explained.

Plus, if Tris is so valuable to David, and he's been monitoring her for years, why didn't he ever intervene during the many times was captured or nearly killed in the previous films? Would helping her invalidate the experiment? Did he need her to survive on her own, in order to prove she's "pure?" Again, who knows?

• Peter uses his slimy charms to try and enter David's inner circle. David sends him on a mission back to Chicago to wipe the memories of the warring factions. 

Did David give Peter one of his ships to help him accomplish this task? If not, did he somehow climb over the wall— twice— by himself? In the previous films scaling the wall has been seemingly impossible, yet when the script needs Peter to get over it at will, it suddenly becomes about as hard as walking through an unlocked door.

• Again with the mind control! This is now the third Divergent film that's used brain altering drugs as a plot point. Yawn.

• Evelyn releases the amnesia gas into the city, but then changes her mind. As she shuts off the gas, Peter shoots her in the back. She falls to the floor, but minutes later she's up and around and runs off with the rest of the cast, seemingly suffering no ill effects from the gunshot wound. Apparently the bullet must have struck one of those unimportant vertebrae.

• The amnesia gas begins filling the entire city of Chicago. Oddly enough, whenever we see unimportant background characters, the gas billows and fills entire rooms and streets. Whenever the main characters are present though, the gas tightly hugs the ground, enabling them to run and shout without inhaling it.

It's also polite of the gas to be bright red instead of colorless and odorless, so it can be easily avoided.

The Divergent Series: Allegiant is a slow, talky and muddled mess that's for diehard fans of the franchise only. Needlessly splitting the slim story into two films only makes its plot shortcomings all the more obvious. It deserves a C, but I'm taking away an extra half point for chopping the final installment in half, for a final grade of C-.


  1. did David give Peter one of his ships to help him accomplish this task? If not, did he somehow climb over the wall— twice— by himself? In the previous films scaling the wall has been seemingly impossible, yet when the script needs Peter to get over it at will, it suddenly becomes about as hard as walking through an unlocked door.

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  2. Thanks for the compliments, Cliff. I guess the scene in question is part of the "Impossible Until It's Not" trope.

    I was never a fan of this series, but somehow ended up seeing them all in the theater. I'm pissed because now it's never going to be finished, and I wasted six hours of my life watching these movies.


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