FILM REVIEW – THE DIVERGENT SERIES: ALLEGIANT, PART 1. With Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Jeff Daniels, Naomi Watts, Octavia Spencer. Written by Noah Oppenheim and Adam Cooper & Bill Collage. Directed by Robert Schwentke. Rated PG-13 for intense violence and action, thematic elements, and some partial nudity. 121 minutes.
The suits at Lionsgate continue to focus on lining pockets, taking ALLEGIANT, the final book in the “Divergent” trilogy, and turning it into two movies. So this is part one of the finale and we will have to wait until next year for the series to finally end. That said, “Allegiant” is a far better film than “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part I” in that it actually has a beginning, a middle, and an end instead of simply setting up things for the climactic film.
Obviously you should have seen “Divergent” (2014) and “Insurgent” (2015) before this. There’s no recap and very little information for people coming into this fresh. For those up to speed, Tris (Shailene Woodley)–having brought down the repressive regime in post-apocalyptic Chicago in the last film–is now watching rebel leader Evelyn (Naomi Watts) operate her own repressive regime. Evelyn claims it’s for everyone’s good, including her son Four (Theo James), but neither he nor Tris are buying it, especially as mob rule and executions seem to be the order of the day.
Tris, Four, and several others defy Evelyn and go over the wall to discover what’s beyond their enclosed city. They are welcomed by Dave (Jeff Daniels), the leader of the advanced humans who have been running Chicago as an experiment. He is delighted to discover that Tris is “pure,” showing that humanity can be redeemed. Yet those who have seen the previous adaptation of this YA series should be suspicious. Seemingly benevolent adult leaders are usually bad news and Evelyn and Dave are true to form.
There’s plenty of plot here, with Evelyn and Johanna (Octavia Spencer), the former leader of the peaceloving Amity sect, ready to engage in civil war, Tris slowly discovering how she’s been manipulated, Four discovering who he can–and cannot–trust, and Peter (Miles Teller) proving that looking out for number one is still his guiding principle. Visually the film is slick and imaginative, shifting from bombed out buildings to futuristic structures combined with some a creative array of special effects. Things keep moving, which is we’ve come to expect from the series.
For those wondering if we really need yet another dystopian movie based on a young adult series of books, the answer is probably not, but Woodley–like Jennifer Lawrence in “The Hunger Games”–is a talented young actress who elevates the material. She’s supported by a strong cast who do a much better job than such heavyweights as Jeff Bridges and Meryl Streep did with “The Giver” (2014). It’s a shame we have to wait a year for yet one more movie, but “Allegiant” manages to work as an entry that can stand on its own and not merely serve as an extended trailer for the final film.•••
Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books. His most recent book is “Shh! It’s a Secret: a novel about Aliens, Hollywood and the Bartender’s Guide.” He lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.