Tris and her friends discover what’s beyond the wall around Chicago may not be any better than the chaos reigning within.
Robert Schwentke, 2016
After helping to cause the collapse of the Faction system in future Chicago, Tris (Shailene Woodley) and her boyfriend Four (Theo James) plan their escape beyond the wall surrounding the city. Gathering up the gang – Tris’s coward brother Caleb (Ansel Elgort), tough bestie Christina (Zoe Kravitz), and two-faced irritant Peter (Miles Teller) – they break out of Chicago and off into the wasteland beyond. What they find is a whole other civilisation – what remains of our world, after disaster struck. All of Chicago is an experiment run by the enigmatic David (Jeff Daniels) – and Tris appears to be the key to its success. Suspicious of David, Four investigates their new home, and discovers terrible conspiracies under the surface. Of course.
It’s amazing to me that this series manages to get worse and crazier with every instalment. At least I can say that I found Allegiant moderately more enjoyable than the dreadful Insurgent, but only because where Insurgent was often boring, Allegiant is ludicrous to the point of frequent, unintentional hilarity. The film really ups the sci-fi stakes as soon as the kids go beyond the wall, with gorgeous rendered environments clashing against terrible green-screen work. It seems like hair and make-up were almost as asleep on the job as Shailene Woodley, who finally seems to have realised what she’s gotten herself into with this mess. The matte-painting look of the wasteland and its small pockets of civilisation are at odds with the destroyed Chicago in which we spent the last two films, but there are also aspects of their technology that look downright bizarre. Floating gel blobs surround the main characters, detached elevators carry them from floor to floor, and there’s a lot of stuff around memory nodes and memory-erasing gas that just doesn’t seem to match up. In fact, the entire climax of this film depends on the filmmakers NOT KNOWING HOW GAS WORKS. There’s an interesting idea behind the war, but no logical progression to the world we’re in now, and the concepts don’t land. There’s nothing about this allegorical world that works.
This instalment does feature a couple of brutal, well-choreographed fights featuring Theo James – one in a crashing plane is particularly good. Of all the young cast members, James wins the Most Improved prize. It’s not saying much, since most of the others seem to have actively gotten worse and, well, Miles Teller was pretty good from the start, but James has gone from pretty block of wood to pretty block of wood who can take a punch. This film’s shift to his perspective still doesn’t benefit the film as a whole, though. Four is still not an interesting character, and Tris at least had her moments in previous films. In this one she’s practically a cypher, The Special with barely any personality, taking a back seat to her boyfriend’s blandness. Also, watching Naomi Watts play Theo James’s mother is downright unsettling. Their scenes together feel much more “quarrelling married couple” than “estranged mother and son”. James is better than useless lump Ansel Elgort, who is still about as interesting as a damp towel as Tris’s brother, and gets more to do than poor Zoe Kravitz, who gets less to do with each instalment. Only Miles Teller really makes his role as the joking, duplicitous Peter work – and when you’re rooting for the weasel who spends most of his time betraying everyone, you know the movie’s in trouble. The films continue to waste very talented grown-up actors in small or terrible roles – Jeff Daniels tries as the new villain, but he’s hamstrung by bad writing, and Octavia Spencer, Daniel Dae Kim, and Maggie Q are just a few of the actors wasted in small roles. This whole series is a dour, bizarre mess.
Allegiant on IMDb