The Divergent Series: Allegiant: The Third Time's Not the Charm (Blu-ray)
It’s the beginning of the end for the “Divergent” series, which for fans of the books may bring about with it a tear or two, though for many others, it would seem to bring about a sigh of relief. Truth be told, the first two films were not received very well, but not without good reason. From the very start, the series felt like little more than a “Hunger Games” knockoff that wanted to compete in the big leagues with the other young adult franchises (“Harry Potter,” “Twilight,” “The Maze Runner,” etc.), but thus far has left very little impact due to its distinct lack of originality (among multiple other issues). However, there is the old saying that sometimes the best is saved for last. Could it simply be that the series’ more substantial entries have been left until the end? For most of the other young adult franchises, this has not proven to be true, but we can always hope.
When last we left Tris (Shailene Woodley) and Four (Theo James), Jeanine had been defeated and the entire city of Chicago learned the truth about how their city had been set up as an experiment. The message that they uncovered had also left them with an open invitation to explore the world outside of their walls. Our heroes decide to take it upon themselves to venture outside the protection of the city, but not without meeting resistance from those who deem it too dangerous. They manage to escape anyway with a few of their friends, eventually making it to the “Bureau of Genetic Welfare,” where the man in charge of Chicago, David (Jeff Daniels), explains how the world was torn apart by genetic manipulation. Apparently cities like Chicago had been established in the hopes of creating genetically pure individuals (“divergents”) like Tris in order to help fix those who are “damaged.” At first, David’s intentions seem reasonably clear, but as trouble begins to brew back home and Four discovers some shocking practices taking place, we soon find out that everything is not quite as it seems.
To its credit, the filmmakers behind “Allegiant” have seemed to learn a little from the mistakes of the previous two films in that, this time around, they at least try to tell a story. You may recall from the first film that the narrative was utterly forgettable simply because it was a storyline that we had already seen several times before, whereas the second film barely had any story to speak of (the entirety of which was focused on trying to open a box). As the third film opens, there is a literally an entire world ready for exploration, giving the film multiple directions in which it could go in an effort to put the previous films behind it. You could even say that the sky was the limit for its potential, but then you inevitably stop and think back to the previous two entries, whose writing had been extremely lackluster at best, forcing you to readjust your expectations while trying to remain optimistic.
After two uneventful films, it does certainly appear as though the franchise is finally getting somewhere, but as we are filled in on the genetic backstory and how it was apparently this entire mess that brought about the end of civilization, you realize once and for all that there is absolutely no hope for the series. “Allegiant” does indeed try to tell a story, but the one that they try to tell is so ridiculous and nonsensical that you have to wonder why they bothered trying to tell it at all. Perhaps trying to fix genetically damaged people by breeding genetically perfect people was a story that worked in Veronica Roth’s books, where young readers just followed along without question, but as a big screen film adaptation, it just comes across as laughable, made even more so by the film’s overly-serious tone.
Certainly not helping in the endeavor is the fact that the characters continue to go undeveloped. You would think that after two entire films (totaling well over four hours) there would be something more to these characters than what the films have given us, but they merely remain as flat as they were from the outset, once more giving us little reason to care about what happens to them or their friends. It becomes a wonder as to how they were able to get such big names like Jeff Daniels (who somehow manages to keep a straight face throughout his numerous ridiculous explanations), Octavia Spencer (whose expression continually screams out “How did I get here?”), and Naomi Watts to participate in a film in which character development is tossed aside in favor of a half-baked plot and a handful of action scenes.
There is one thing that the film has managed to do a little better than its fellow YA franchises, which is that this entry (the first part of a two-part finale) comes across as a complete film that doesn’t feel like it’s merely a setup for the second part. When “The Hunger Games” and “Harry Potter” split up their final books into two films, we ended up with a pair of part ones that felt unnecessary (i.e. they could have been merged into part two to tell a complete story), whereas “Allegiant” at the very least finishes its own narrative before leaving us waiting for the final film. Does that make it a better film that those respective part ones? Not really, as those franchises had better stories and characters to work with, even if the films were simply setup for the grand finales.
When it comes right to it, “Allegiant” just represents another entry in a series that’s been nearly impossible to get invested in from the start. The filmmakers have made it clear that the characters are not important, and the story has been directionally-challenged since the first cliché-riddled entry was released. At this point, it seems unlikely that the franchise will be given a complete overhaul (despite desperately needing one), so I suppose we can expect more of the same issues to plague the final film as well. Then again, maybe they’ll surprise us by delivering a finale that improves upon the series on all fronts. As I said, we can always hope.
“The Divergent Series: Allegiant” comes to Blu-ray in a 2.40:1, 1080p High Definition transfer of excellent quality. The picture remains perfectly sharp and clear throughout the entire presentation, helping to showcase the film’s extensive production design and special effects. The Dolby Atmos audio is outstanding as well, giving you all of the dialogue, score, and sound effects in exceptional quality. Overall, the film has been given great treatment, leaving you with an unbeatable experience.
Audio Commentary with Producers Douglas Wick and Lucy Fisher: A commentary track that shows that the producers don’t have much to say about the film.
Allegiant: Book to Film (5 Minutes): A brief look at the challenges involved in splitting the final book into two films and bringing it to life.
Battle in the Bullfrog (4 Minutes): A brief exploration of one of the film’s fight sequences.
Finding the Future: Effects & Technology (11 Minutes): A featurette that examines the technology seen throughout the film and how it was created.
Characters in Conflict (6 Minutes): A featurette that focuses on the newer characters.
The Next Chapter: Characters and Cast (8 Minutes): A featurette that discusses the young cast of the film.
Building the Bureau (12 Minutes): An extensive look at how the “Bureau of Genetic Welfare” was designed.
“The Divergent Series: Allegiant” may finally get the franchise’s story moving a little, but it ends up being all for naught with its nonsensical narrative and continued lack of character development. If it means anything at all, it can probably be said that this is at least the most entertaining of the three films thus far. It moves along at a better pace than the others and gives you a few unintentional laughs along the way. With still one more film to go, it’s best just to take whatever positives we can get at this point.
Available on Blu-ray and DVD starting Tuesday.
Follow me on Twitter @BeckFilmCritic and be sure to subscribe to the site for the latest updates.