Sunday, 10 April 2016

The Divergent Series: Allegiant: Film Review

The Divergent Series: Allegiant: Film Review


Cast: Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Jeff Daniels, Naomi Watts, Octavia Spencer, Miles Teller, Ansel Elgort
Director: Robert Schwentke

The latest young adult cum dystopian cum split finale in two a la Hunger Games / Harry Potter film has nary a hiss nor a roar as it beats onward to the end.

In Allegiant, Shailene Woodley's rather bland Tris Pryor sleepwalks her way through the story as she and pouty love interest Four (the always pursed lipped Theo James) make a break for freedom.

At the end of the lacklustre Insurgent, the gang found out that everything they had been told was a lie and there was life outside the ruins of Chicago. 

Setting out to scale the wall and break free into the beyond, Tris and her troupe encounter a group of geneticists and a shadowy cabal who reveal she is the key to the future... and that only Tris can save the world from factions and the fractures within. Can they be trusted?

Allegiant feels like a reboot of the series and once again packs some pretty impressive space age visuals and some great visualisations of a world just beyond our own. (A building that houses the geneticists is a DNA helix)  But this futuristic sheen comes at a price - and that cost is the caring about any of the characters or giving them enough to do.

While the action is ramped up in parts with Schwentke giving life to clear-cut sequences, the continual muddling and muddying of obtuse concepts like The Damaged, The Pure, The Fringe and eugenics themselves in po-faced dialogue spouted by the cast does little to breathe life into proceedings.

In fact, it does the opposite.

The dramatic cypher Tris seems devoid of any punch this time around, and Woodley works with what she has on offer, but it's scant pickings. She's not well served by symbolism either with her purity seeing her clothed in white while everyone else has varying degrees of washed out pastels.  While James gets to run around a little and bust out some gung-ho action sequences, these choreographed pieces are more a momentary indulgence, rather than a full narrative necessity.

Unfortunately, opening up the world has ironically robbed The Divergent Series of any real life - the conflicts between Octavia Spencer and Naomi Watts' warring factions is touched on only too briefly and any tension there feels manufactured and under-explored.

Daniels makes a reasonable fist of ambiguity with the presence of a benevolent leader, but there's little for him to really do as the film heads to a much underwhelming ending. Perhaps the desire to split the film has robbed it of any kind of urgency from the book and undercut the drama that was due to unfurl. 

When compared to the work done by The Hunger Games franchise, Woodley's Tris is a heroine that's found wanting and whose very definition is weaker. Considering both series explore similar themes, they couldn't really be much farther apart with their executions and central characters.

Ultimately, The Divergent Series will end with Ascendant - but whether it will garner a place in the pantheon of YA films is very much up for debate.

Rating:


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