The Divergent Series: Allegiant (PG-13) ★★

Review Date: March 18th, 2016

Allegiant tries to cram too little story into too much time. This results in dead spots and uneven pacing. Some stretches are painfully dull with canned dialogue and lifeless character interaction failing to liven up the proceedings. Whatever happened to the smoking chemistry between Shailene Woodley and Theo James that made parts of Divergent so giddily fun? Now, they're like an old married couple, comfortable in each other's presence but with minimal evidence of sexual attraction. It's as if, having established everything in Divergent - the setting, the people, the situation, the creative minds behind the series have coasted on those beginnings. Not having read Veronica Roth's novels, I can't say if this is a fundamental issue with the source, but the result on screen is unsatisfying.

Allegiant's climax is, to be blunt, idiotic. Oh, it's fun in a B-movie sort of way, with ominous clouds of red smoke crawling along the ground threatening to overspread all of Chicago, but it doesn't take a degree in physics (or even a basic understanding of the laws of thermodynamics) to sense there's something wrong with the mist's properties. It's distracting and the scenes are played almost like a parody of the cheesy science fiction TV series and movies of yesteryear. I laughed a few times during these scenes but I'm pretty sure that wasn't director Robert Schwentke's intention. (Or maybe it was and I'm underestimating him.)

Thankfully, Summit Entertainment has abandoned the 3-D experiment it tried for Insurgent. Visually, Allegiant is all the better for it. Schwentke's interpretation of a post-apocalyptic Midwest isn't original but at least it isn't muddied by poor post-conversion 3-D. The special effects are limited - competently done but not eye-opening. Aircraft design, for example, is generic sci-fi 101 (although the ships' ability to protect passengers during crashes is impressive).

Potential viewers of Allegiant can be divided into three groups. The first, fans of the novels, will see the film regardless of how "good" or "bad" it is and their interpretation will be based on how well it matches the images they have created in their minds based on Roth's writing. (Although I have heard there's a lack of love among readers about the novel Allegiant.) Then there are those who haven't see one or both of the previous productions. There's nothing here to encourage them to re-think things and climb on board. Finally, there are those who haven't read the books but have seen the previous movies. Allegiant is most likely to disappoint them because of its lack of vision and direction. The franchise feels stalled and there's nothing here to generate anticipation for the next (and last) installment. It's as if the Divergent series has already ended but the filmmakers haven't recognized it.

© 2016 James Berardinelli