‘Allegiant’ Suffers From Poor Writing, Bad Plot


The biggest problem with Allegiant, the third movie in the Divergent series, is that it has no real purpose. There is a lot of standing around discussing nature vs. nurture issues to no purpose, mixed in with a lot of fighting and special effects. It is the kind of movie where you start checking your watch at regular intervals hoping it ends soon, so you can get out.

The original film had the spark of difference where, in a ruin of Chicago somewhere in the future, children are tested and placed into tribal groupings based on where the system says they belong. They have the Erudite for the smart ones heading for science, as well as ones for law, agriculture and giving. And, of course, Dauntless, for the warriors.

The lead character, Tris (Shailene Woodley), is one of those, sort of. She is a special blend, a Divergent, who could be in any of the groups. During the first film, she gets trained, particularly by Four (Theo James), who becomes her lover. They fight off an attempt by the Erudite to totally take over. In the second movie, they basically just fight for survival, killing the evil dictator at the end to finish the factional system.

The new ruler Evelyn (Naomi Watts), trying to win out over her rival Johanna (Octavia Spencer), runs a whole series of show trials, creating a mob atmosphere. Fed up with all this fighting, Four, Tris, Tris’s brother Caleb (Ansel Elgort), her buddy Christina (Zoë Kravitz) and friend Peter (Miles Teller) get over the wall and confront what’s on the other side. They are met by a whole group of sleazoids from the Bureau of Genetic Warfare, led by David (Jeff Daniels), who welcome them to “the future.”

David tells them that they are the result of a centuries-long experiment dealing with pure and damaged genes. Actually, it is so muddled that a real geneticist would have no idea of what they intended. But Tris really seems to like David, and we begin to move more into soap opera territory. There is no real conclusion to the story because the book was split in half. That leaves more time to really admire the high-tech items (although I would bet that a lot of them, like the drones that respond to finger commands, will be here rather shortly) and the action.

What really bothers me about the young adult books and movies we now see is that they are totally dystopian. Society is terrible and repressive, according to this series as well as The Hunger Games and other popular fiction. Growing up, I loved Heinlein’s youth science fiction and series such as the Hardy Boys mysteries. Kids were going into space, solving crimes and getting involved in science. Now, fictional kids are learning how to kill and feel the need to destroy older folks, particularly those in charge. Deep down, they are learning to fear the powerful as those who have lost their souls.

Beyond that, the acting is pretty good. Hiring top actors helps overcome a script that could have been written by a 10th-grader, or even a really bright kid in the eighth grade. It is a story that has no real climax, no conclusion. As a result, you walk out of the place wondering not whether it was worth the money you paid (since it certainly was not) but whether the people behind it really cared about quality at all.

The older actors were all good, considering the poorly written parts they were assigned. I particularly liked Spencer. I thought Kravitz and Teller stole a lot of scenes from the leads. Again, it was not just acting; their parts were a lot better.

A movie like this is why many people hate sequels. The producers and studios know there is a built-in audience and, as a result, put out an inferior product. I rather liked the first movie. The whole idea was really clever, and it moved quickly, even while bringing up the whole nature vs. nurture issue. The second one was far less interesting, more a simple good guy vs. bad authority film. Frankly, this movie is mainly a blob.

It is so weak that I do not even recommend it for On Demand viewing unless you are a real fan of the series. Wait until it pops up on HBO or a service you have and can watch it as part of the price. That way you will be wasting only your time.


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