Confusion, thy name is “Allegiant.”
“Allegiant,” thy name is confusion.
Confused by a picture that crams elements of eugenics and dystopian fantasizing into a humorless sci-fi movie framework full of howling mobs, seemingly endless shoot-’em-up episodes, clunky-looking special effects and unconvincing relationships.
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“The Divergent Series: Allegiant” is a picture that’s two hours long, but feels like four. It’s based on Veronica Roth’s 2013 young adult best-seller that wrapped up her “Divergent” trilogy, but as is the custom with such print-to-screen adaptations, it’s been inflated into two movies for purely cash-grubbing reasons. (Looking at you, “Hunger Games.”) “Ascendant,” the sequel to this sequel, is set for release in 2017.
Most of the principals from last year’s “Insurgent,” (part deux of the trilogy) are back, with the exception of Kate Winslet’s evil overlord character who got killed off at the very end of “Insurgent.” The killer is Naomi Watts’ character, who steps immediately into Winslet’s evildoer shoes. Meet the new overlord, same as the old overlord.
As was true with “The Hunger Games” (you can think of the “Divergent” movies as junior varsity versions of that series), it is absolutely essential for a viewer to have seen the earlier installments, which pick up right where their predecessors ended, to have the slightest hope of understanding what’s up with with the sequels
The complex social structure that divvied up humans into five so-called factions — Abnegation, Amity, Candor, Dauntless and Erudite — in Roth’s postapocalyptic world has been overthrown by heroine Tris (Shailene Woodley) and her allies. But with a new factionless dictatorship imposed by Watts’ character Evelyn, the mother of Tris’ sweetheart and chief ally Four (Theo James), the two lovers decide to flee the ruined city of Chicago. They decamp with a handful of others, several of dubious loyalty. Which is say they’ve betrayed the pair in the previous picture. They all go over the massive wall surrounding the city and into the irradiated wasteland beyond it.
Confused yet? Oh, you will be.
In the wasteland is another city, a paradise of white futuristic architecture, where a seemingly benevolent character played by Jeff Daniels rules. He explains that Tris is a genetically pure human, the product of a several-centuries-long experiment to rehabilitate the damaged human genome from the effects of the atomic apocalypse. She’s pure. Everyone else is genetically damaged. Genetic purity must be re-established. As for the genetically damaged, well, an unpleasant fate is planned for them. Potent subject matter, but handled with clumsy obviousness by director Robert Schwentke.
Child abductions, mass brainwashing, murder plots and more nick-of-time narrow escapes than are possible to count — a rocket crash, hikes through the radioactive hellscape, pile-on attacks by heavily armed bad guys; a key character shrugs them all off — are all part of the mix.
The chemistry between Woodley and James is a tepid as ever. Daniels slips once more into the smooth-talking man-in-charge persona he’s lately played in “The Martian” and “Steve Jobs.”
All of it feels warmed over, reprocessed ... and yes, confused.
The Divergent Series: Allegiant
☆☆ out of 5
Cast: Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Naomi Watts, Jeff Daniels.
Director: Robert Schwentke.
Running time: 2 hours.
Rated: PG-13, for intense violence and action, thematic elements and some partial nudity.