Shailene Woodley is back as Tris in the third go-round of the Divergent franchise, The Divergent Series: Allegiant. Following the revelations discovered at the end of Insurgent, Tris and Four (Theo James) must escape Chicago and its new regime, led by his mother Evelyn (Naomi Watts), to go beyond the boundary wall and discover what the recently revealed “message” means and what has become of the human race outside.
The Divergent Series: Allegiant is a huge step backwards in a franchise that was never actually that bad and seemed to improve (in my opinion) in its second installment. While the sci-fi element has grown with each film, it overtakes this one and the results are disastrous.
The special effects fluctuate from not bad to god-awful throughout the film, and it’s obvious director Robert Schwentke and his team bit off more than they could chew with the scope of this effort. When Tris and her team leave Chicago to find the outside world, the scenes have some of the worst green screen environments I’ve ever seen in a blockbuster film.
Not only are the visuals sloppy, but it’s obvious all the leads have mentally checked out of the franchise. Shailene Woodley, normally a strong actress, looks so bored that at times it seemed like she was going tobreak character and laugh at how stupid some of dialogue comes across. There are enough unintentionally bad lines that our screening’s audience, full of franchise fans, snickered and groaned multiple times.
The script obviously didn’t help the cast, turning fun, interesting characters like Peter (Miles Teller) into goofy punchlines that the actors can’t help but make campy. Jeff Daniels, as the face of the city beyond the wall, might be one of the few reasons to see Allegiant. There’s a glimmer in his eye in this film that says he’s having fun delivering all these really awful lines, which is something the young cast members couldn’t pull off.
The action sequences are one of the other highlights, and mark a few of the more fun sections of Allegiant. Unfortunately, Woodley pretty much ruins these as well. It’s obvious from the previous films that action isn’t her strong point – she’s not very coordinated and she looks incredibly awkward running and shooting a weapon. The actress obviously worked harder on the physical aspect of things in the previous installments, and Schwentke cut things well enough to sell the character Tris as a formidable opponent, but not this time. It’s as if Woodley showed up on set without training or doing any rehearsal, and ran around giggling like a little girl in her front yard pretending to be Princess Leia. “Pew-pew! Tee hee!”
I haven’t mentioned Theo James much yet because yes, he’s in the movie and tries harder than Woodley, but also seems like he’d rather be somewhere else. He only really seems engaged when he’s doing his hand-to-hand combat sequences, which are admittedly pretty impressive.
Lastly, there are a few interesting smaller ideas in the film, dealing with prejudices and what defines humanity, and what it means to be alive. They certainly raise some interesting questions and give enough social commentary to keep The Divergent Series: Allegiant from completely being a waste of time. But if you’re looking for great entertainment with a message, you’re better off going to see Zootopia again.