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"THE DIVERGENT SERIES: ALLEGIANT"
(2016) (Shailene Woodley, Theo James) (PG-13)


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QUICK TAKE:
Action: A teenager of the distant future finds more than she bargained for when she and a small group of people head off into the post-apocalyptic wasteland outside their walled city.
PLOT:
In the distant future, war has ravaged most of the planet and what's left of Chicago has been turned into a walled-in fortress. In order to maintain the peace and keep everyone in line, the populace had previously been divided into six factions. There was Abnegation (the selfless), Amity (the peaceful), Candor (the honest), Dauntless (the brave protectors), Erudite (the Intelligent), and Factionless (those who don't fit into the previous five and are essentially homeless scavengers).

And then there are the so-called divergents who didn't fit squarely into any of the categories and thus were deemed a threat to the status quo. One of them is Beatrice "Tris" Prior (SHAILENE WOODLEY), a teenager who led a rebellion against the ruthless but now dead, former dictator. She wants her former instructor turned lover, Tobias "Four" Eaton (THEO JAMES), to join her in exploring the world outside the wall. But Four's estranged mother, Evelyn (NAOMI WATTS) -- now one of the joint rulers of the city, along with the more peaceful Johanna (OCTAVIA SPENCER) -- has closed the wall and won't let anyone leave, what with having death execution trials of those who previously sided with the former ruler.

Among those defendants is Tris' brother, Caleb (ANSEL ELGORT), and despite him having turned his back on his sister, she has Four free him from confinement. Along with former initiates Christina (ZOE KRAVITZ) and Peter (MILES TELLER) who's only looking out for himself, they manage to scale the wall and head into the outside world, now nothing more than a vast, post-apocalyptic wasteland. While fleeing from Evelyn's main goon, Edgar (JOHNNY WESTON), they end up rescued by an advanced militarized force that takes them back to the Bureau of Genetic Welfare. Their liaison, Matthew (BILL SKARSGARD) introduces Tris to David (JEFF DANIELS), the director the Bureau.

He's been in control of Chicago, running the city as an experiment to see if humans could evolve away from past genetic manipulation that eventually turned people against one another. He believes he's found that in Tris, but Four -- who's been assigned work duties along with Caleb, Christina and Peter -- worries that David might be up to no good. When that's realized, he and Tris do what they can to prevent a disaster back in Chicago.

OUR TAKE: 3 out of 10
While it wasn't anywhere near being a good movie, at least 2014's "Divergent" -- based on the so-called young adult novel of the same name by Veronica Roth -- had a somewhat intriguing premise. Following an apocalyptic event of unknown origin and scope, those left in the remains of Chicago were split into six factions ranging from the selfless to the peaceful, the honest, the brave protectors, the Intelligent and those who didn't fit into any of those.

In terms of groupings and these sorts of young adult movies based on novels popular among pre-teens, younger teens, and even some adults, it seems the moviegoing public (including critics) are split into three factions, albeit self-selected and not government imposed. Those would include people who love them, others who despise them, and the rest who don't really care one way or the other.

I'm one of the latter. I'm not inherently opposed to them, as some are good (such as the various entries in the "Harry Potter" series) while others have decent first installments (such as "The Hunger Games" and "The Maze Runner") before quickly running out of gas

This third chapter in the "Divergent" film series -- following last year's sequel, "The Divergent Series: Insurgent" -- continues that latter quality of diminishing artistic returns as it continues the story of Tris, Four and more (which would have made for a better title, albeit for what would sound like a different sort of genre film).

To add insult to injury, "The Divergent Series: Allegiant" is yet another blatant money grab -- like "The Hunger Games" last installment(s) -- as it's split Roth's last novel into two separate films. And that's not because of needing more time to tell the tale, but instead simply and greedily desiring to fill a large bank vault with box office receipts.

The film -- helmed by Robert Schwentke who works from a script by Noah Oppenheim and Adam Cooper & Bill Collage -- picks up where installment number two left off. With the local governing body overthrown -- and Kate Winslet probably dancing the happy dance for getting out of this series with some dignity intact -- our heroine (a returning Shailene Woodley, behaving like she wished she could have joined Winslet in getting out of Dodge) wants to go exploring. But her boyfriend (Theo James) thinks it's a bad idea, and not just because his estranged mom (Naomi Watts) is now the ruler who's closed off the walls and is having members of the previous party executed.

Undaunted, our plucky couple makes it out -- along with her formerly traitorous brother (Ansel Elgort), best friend (ZoŽ Kravitz) and another talented actor (Miles Teller) who deserves to be in better films than this.

They're eventually picked up by an advanced civilization that apparently watched only parts of "The Truman Show" left over from the apocalypse and thus didn't realize the perils of playing God over those not aware they're in a fishbowl civilization experiment. That's run by a suit named David (Jeff Daniels) who swears he's up to nothing but good, but we and Four know better.

Throw in bouts of mediocre action, various plot holes, and questionable character behavior, occasionally horrid dialogue, and a cast that appears bored, listless and wishing they had signed on to appear in a better YA movie series, and the stage is set for installment numero cuatro.

Considering the second film barely made more money than the first (worldwide it was up just three percent, while it actually dropped domestically), it's unclear but quite likely that moviegoers will continue self-segregating themselves into the do not care faction regarding this series and next year's finale, "Ascendant." "The Divergent Series: Allegiant" is boring and makes me wish authors would stop writing these tales of dystopian, post-apocalyptic futures featuring teen protagonists. This one rates as just a 3 out of 10.




Reviewed March 15, 2016 / Posted March 18, 2016


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