Dystopian futures and post-apocalyptic settings are all the rage in cinema. Whether it’s “The Terminator” or “Mad Max,” the genre is appealing because of the wide range of imaginative spectacle it evokes and the usually subtle yet important social commentary hidden below the surface.
And then there’s “The Divergent Series: Allegiant.”
Feeling more like an off-brand version of “The Hunger Games” than a stand-alone sci-fi flick, it beats generic moral dilemmas like a dead horse. Despite the interesting concept, the sappy characters and obnoxious futuristic clichés prove to be too overbearing, prompting plenty of eye-rolling and sarcastic smirks.
“The Divergent Series” tells the story of Beatrice “Tris” Prior, a young woman living in the ruins of Chicago after a war has destroyed most of North America.
Surrounded by a wall that separates them from the outside world, the community is divided into five factions based on the aptitude of each citizen. Tris, however, discovers that she is one of a rare breed that does not fit into any one category. This condition is known as divergent and is seen as a threat to the peace and order of the community.
“Allegiant,” the third installment in the series, picks up as Tris and her entourage venture outside the wall, encountering a world they did not know existed and finding new threats that seem to repeat old conflicts.
While the typical dystopian story may initially attract interest, the poorly written characters quickly show the true nature of the narrative, steeped in the cheesy romances and the not-all-that-surprising plot twists that are staples of cheap young adult fiction.
From the several random side characters, who seem to switch sides constantly, to the villains, who really are not as menacing as they’re built up to be, you can’t quite shake the feeling that the writers do not understand their own characters. Even Tris, who is supposed to grow into a strong female lead, lacks any convincing strength — Katniss from “The Hunger Games” fights, whereas Tris merely whines.
The major difference between “Allegiant” and the previous films in the series is the setting, as the characters venture out into the world beyond the wall.
The nuclear wasteland they encounter looks conspicuously similar to a Hollywood studio set and when they finally reach human civilization, the result is not much better. In an effort to impress, the futuristic city they discover is decked out in chrome and fancy technology, leaving behind the much more stark and poignant setting of the Chicago ruins.
Yet as shiny as this new world is, it is soon revealed (as expected) that not everything is as good as it seems, repeating the same dystopian moral dilemmas of the previous films in the series.
Perhaps the most disorientating aspect of “Allegiant” is the incomprehensible narrative. The only unpredictable aspect of the movie is that nothing about this new world is logically explained, despite the multitude of scenes devoted to answering the characters’ questions.
Of course, because “The Divergent Series” adheres to that strange cash grab of a practice that divides the final installment into two parts, it could be argued that the unanswered questions are simply loose strings that will be tied up in the final film. If this were to happen, it would surely be the greatest storytelling feat of the series, but unfortunately, the massive plot gaps render any logical understanding of “Allegiant” illusive and futile.
“The Divergent Series: Allegiant” does offer plenty of spectacle so that the film is far from boring. However, it severely lacks the finer storytelling adeptness that makes dystopian future stories so compelling. Rather, it has little more to offer than an overused theme of teenagers saving the world with explosions and romantic clichés.
“The Divergent Series: Allegiant” is directed by Robert Schwentke and stars Shailene Woodley, Theo James and Jeff Daniels. It is based on the novels by Veronica Roth.