After faintly defending two chapters of the Divergent series, ripping on the third offers no pleasure.
From the beginning, there was a sense of position for this particular YA dystopian dream, resigned to being figuratively Primrose to that better version's Katniss. Such modesty was part of its charm.
Now the third chapter, Allegiant, clumsily lunges for an abdicated throne, trying to out-wow the maze runners, mortal instruments and Ender's gamers out there. Silly franchise; you were already ahead.
Allegiant is more and less at once; larger, exposing its green-screen inadequacies, and darker, making this a 2-hour slog to inconclusion. Like other YA movie franchises it aspires to be, Veronica Roth's final novel in the series is being filmed in two parts when one would do. It's fair to wonder how much interest will remain in June, 2017.
Picking up after the part 2 assassination of Chicago's dictator Janine — Kate Winslet must be relieved — Allegiant begins with her successor Evelyn (Naomi Watts) doing worse despotic things. An electrified wall surrounds the city, keeping the now factionless population as prisoners.
Keep in mind that evil Evelyn is the mother of good guy Four (Theo James, who should just add "Franco" to his name to complete the resemblance). Since Four and our heroine Tris (Shailene Woodley) are a revolutionary item, the maternal vibe is central to Allegiant, although like every other loyalty in the movie can conveniently change at a moment's notice.
Tris and Four lead a nifty reverse rappelling escape over the wall to see what's outside Chicago. Turns out it's the Fringe, a scorched earth region resembling the Mojave filmed through a pitcher of cherry Kool-Aid. "This hole looks radioactive, or was in the last 200 years," surmises Tris's brother Caleb (Ansel Elgort). The hole may be radioactive but such dialogue is toxic.
Beyond the Fringe is O'Hare International Airport, or what's left of it after mankind's folly, transformed into the Bureau of Genetic Welfare, a master race sort of place led by David (Jeff Daniels). If the bureau's casting and costumes don't clue you into dark intentions, the furtive glances certainly will.
Allegiant dutifully proceeds through what must be every detail of the first half of Roth's book, no matter how redundant or insignificant. Basically, Tris is ultra-Divergent to the point of "pure" and David wants her DNA. Everyone else, even Four, is "damaged," creating a roadblock to romance. Such things happen when grown-ups get involved in YA fantasy.
The cast performs according to the gig's necessity on their resume. Woodley and Miles Teller (hometown star and Lecanto High grad), in a padded role befitting new stardom, have better things in mind than a franchise accepted before scoring big. Watts, Daniels and Octavia Spencer are established pros who'll bring polish to even thinner roles than these. James, Elgort and Zoe Kravitz act their little hearts out.
The pleasures of Allegiant are unintended, those little bits of business taken so seriously that serious viewers must laugh: The moment we know is coming, when Tris channels Ronald Reagan ("Tear down that wall!"), the cheesy SFX behind plasma globes, search-and-destroy drones and virtual surveillance, and the certainty that when someone triumphantly declares "We did it!" a killshot is coming next.
Contact Steve Persall at [email protected] or (727) 893-8365. Follow @StevePersall.