How ironic it is that surviving the mediocre first two installments in The Divergent Series actually helped me in enjoying the new one. Knowing what to expect is a must for this type of movie. A checklist mentality in story, a cast of underdeveloped characters played by excruciatingly underused actors and awful special effects are just some of Allegiant’s flaws. But knowing what I am getting into as Tris’ opening monologue plays turned out to be a blessing. These films are better off viewed as stylish B-movie-like action romps a la Resident Evil rather than Hunger Games clones, and in that perspective it serves as passable entertainment. Not exactly the best compliment, but potentially redeeming nonetheless.
It’s when you adapt this mentality that you forgive the film’s many flaws. The sins of Divergent and Insurgent still haunt Allegiant, such as the aforementioned poor job in characterization and production issues. The world still feels fake, as if the makers bit off more than they can chew. Shailene Woodley and Theo James still can’t muster up even a tiny sliver of chemistry between both lead characters. Giving priority to casting good, charismatic actors despite only small amounts of screen time does contribute a fleeting positive note, but only fleeting. They’re all nice to look at, but they fade to the background just as quickly as the forgettable story. Composer Joseph Trapanese rises above his work in the previous film this time though, providing the biggest improvement.
The film’s studio must have been worried about diminishing returns going forward given the negative reception of Insurgent and its barely passing Divergent’s gross even with a 3D premium strapped in. They tried really hard to differentiate the new one, increasing the scale and trusting that the sights and sounds of the new locations will provide at least some amazement for viewers. But really, how can you outdo two straight installments that were given middling if not negative reviews without fixing their flaws? Too much emphasis has been given on the business side of thinking rather than the creative. If Ascendant arrives a year from now with an even bigger budget and scale without looking inward first, The Divergent Series will forever be remembered as a missed opportunity.
The concept of this world has long been ripe for a worthy adaptation, but that chance has whizzed past by in just a few years’ time. We can only hope those in charge will see through the smoke and finally change the direction this series has gone on. Tris and Four will never be held in high regard as Bella and Edward or all the other popular young adult adaptation couples without a clear path in which their relationship develops along with the proper breathing room. The same goes for the bigger web of characters. Get the basics done, and maybe The Divergent Series will go out with a bang.