Allegiant (2016)

A movie review by Frank Ochieng

The first compulsion is to reach for an unflattering label when dubbing the third installment of the Divergent series as "the poor man's Hunger Games". Sure, the comparison was inevitable but all the Divergent editions had to do was prove that the unfair comparing and contrasting were wrong. Well, the knockoff status was indeed warranted and unfortunately this copycat YA Sci-Fi serving of a harried heroine and her excitable dystopian dealings never mustered up the kind of distinctive expectations that failed to fuel this flaccid futuristic fable. Hence, The Divergent Series: Allegiant is an over-stuffed mechanical continuation of a familiar film franchise trying desperately to fulfill its colorful action-packed whimsy left over by its pumped-up predecessors.

As mentioned, Allegiant is the third episode of the Divergent movie series. Of course Veronica Roth is the literary voice responsible for the books on which these films are based. Jokingly, one would probably imagine that both Roth and Hunger Games author Suzanne Collins are twin sisters seeing as though their imaginative wells of creativity are similar in style and content. The only difference is that Collins's notable blueprint registered with forceful reception while Roth's wannabe material was like an identical shadow trying to break out in its own shade.

Basically, Allegiant (much like the rest of the YA genre) is a glorified teen soap opera bombarded with awesome ray guns and youthful cynicism aimed at the controlling over-30 Establishment. Distrust and disillusionment is the recurring theme and the penalty for being young, attractive, repressed and rebellious is a cautionary tale for those that want to challenge the sinister Authority. As with The Hunger Games' Katniss Everdeen (played by Oscar winner Jennifer Lawrence) we are subjected to Divergent diva Tris Pryor (Shailine Woodley) as the feminine firecracker ready to spring into action defeating the aging forces threatening their post- apocalyptic presence. Unfortunately for Woodley's Tris she does not possess the explosive brooding or riveting material and eye-opening challenges that Lawrence's Katniss was blessed with from the get-go. At least one common denominator is clear: both bad-ass babes have totally catchy, cool-sounding names, right?

The sluggish plotting in Allegiant revisits the enclosed post-apocalyptic Chicago where various "factions" of young folks are furiously fighting with one another. The tension is percolating big time as the trapped youthful residents are growing increasingly restless. The disenchanted Tris, along with her studly boyfriend Four (Theo James) and group of rebels, decide to break out of their Chicago-bound doldrums and climb the wall to escape their entrapment. Of course this means crossing over some treacherous terrain to reach a more, idyllic surrounding. The destination, as it turns out, is the comfortable haven for the monitoring overlords spying their every step.

Thankfully, Tris and her bunch stumble upon a picturesque civilization headed by leader David (Emmy-winner Jeff Daniels). The surroundings look idyllic but David is very shady because his agenda is to recruit the pure and precious Tris for his genetic experimentation. With Tris as his main guinea pig the devious David can plan on using his experimental agenda on the underprivileged pretty kids back in the walled-off Chicago. The educated guess is that David most likely would extend the same kind of testing treatment for "the Fringes" as well (they are the masses that exist outside the wall of Chicago in less flattering pockets of the region). In any event, Tris represents the ideal vision for his replication of purity and perfection to be transferred to the "damaged" souls out there. While Tris is intrigued by the CEO's intention for bettering the impoverished population Four is skeptical about David's focus on his gun-toting honey bunny.

To say that The Divergent Series--Allegiant is clunky and convoluted even for a showy older kiddie caper is an understatement to say the least. Director Robert Schwentke is basically on auto pilot here as the cameras roll while capturing the drawn out degrees of splashy stunts, showdowns and bombastic special effects flourishes. The silly-minded plot and utter familiarity of the "Big Brother watching over the young perished pretty people" feels empty and repetitive at its compelling core. One cannot perceive the transparent concept of Allegiant going through the motions without looking at this anemic actioner as a convenient means to bridge the upcoming remaining installments to protect its promising box office clout. So for those looking forward to Ascendant please hold your horses because this is what Allegiant strives for...to make one salivate over the next due edition to this tiring movie series.

Sure, The Divergent Series--Allegiant and perhaps Ascendant will offer more of the same and if this is something that its avid fans do not mind then fine...knock yourselves out to your heart's redundant content.

The Divergent Series--Allegiant (2016)

Lionsgate

2 hrs. 1 min.

Starring: Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Naomi Watts, Octavia Spencer, Ray Stevenson, Jeff Daniels, Zoe Kravitz and Miles Teller

Directed by: Robert Schwentke

MPAA Rating: PG-13

Genre: Sci-Fi/Action & Adventure/Fantasy/Romance

Critic's Rating: ** stars (out of 4 stars)

(c) Frank Ochieng 2016