So, um, when did Shailene Woodley become a blonde?
No, seriously. Did this happen in the last film? Did she diverge from the planet of Brunette? I don't remember this happening and I don't remember anyone asking my opinion.
I mean, did we really need something else to remind us that Tris is like a Kiddie College version of Katniss?
Oh, and while we're at it, how have we gotten three films into this four-film series (Can we call it a "Quadrilogy?") and we're still calling Theo James's character Four?
Why? Because there are four films in the series? Because the films seem to go on FOURever? Because, thus far, we've seen about four emotions from Four?
These are the thoughts that rampaged through my mind as I was sitting in the movie theatre watching The Divergent Series: Allegiant, which is really, really weird because I don't recall the first two films needing to remind us that we're watching The Divergent Series. I mean, it's not like I thought I'd stumbled into Barbershop or Police Academy or Human Centipede.
As is usual for most of us film journalists, well, except for the fancy-pants ones, I arrived at the movie theatre early enough that I could ponder my fate and ponder the last film to get myself ready for what was about to unfold.
Here's the thing. I couldn't remember the last film. Seriously. I couldn't remember ANYTHING about the last film other than remembering Shailene Woodley and I'd apparently conveniently forgotten that somewhere along the line she became a blonde.
Oh, and you remember that whole Tom Brady/New England/Deflate-Gate controversy? I can't help but think we have some sort of Inflate-Gate controversy going on in Allegiant.
Quit laughing. I'm being serious. I'd swear from one scene to the next that Shailene Woodley's breasts become increasingly bigger. I was starting to think she might become Dolly Parton by the end of the film. Watch the film. You'll see what I mean.
Okay, I'm done.
Hmmm. The Divergent Series - Allegiant is building up to next year's Ascendant, though by the end of this film you may find yourself not particularly caring too much about the whole idea of ascending or descending or whatever. I will admit that it makes me chuckle that Woodley will have then starred in both Ascendant and The Descendants.
Sorry, I keep diverging. What can I say? I'm damaged.
In this film, we quickly learn that Jeanine (Kate Winslet) has been unceremoniously removed from power and replaced by Evelyn (Naomi Watts), whose similarly ambitious nature rapidly gives way to a mob mentality in Tris's beloved Chicago. Concluding that their only option is to climb the forbidden wall that has enveloped Chicago, Tris and Four (James), along with Caleb (Ansel Elgort), Peter (Miles Teller) and others set off to explore a world they've never known and a world where they have no idea what actually exists.
They aren't prepared for what they find.
They're also not prepared for who they find - David (Jeff Daniels), whose painted on smile and strangely serene disposition can't hide the fact that his status as the director of this Bureau of Genetic Welfare is downright freaking creepy. With knowledge of her mother and technology far beyond that ever known in Chicago, David quickly charms Tris when she is identified as something long believed to be impossible - Pure, a genetic state toward which the Bureau has long been working courtesy of "rescuing" children from the not so distant "fringe" area.
Truthfully, I stopped caring about two paragraphs ago. You will, too.
There's really no denying that Shailene Woodley is a gifted actress, but she's given little to do in Allegiant other than pretending she has a chemistry with Theo James, she still doesn't, and the ultimate challenge of trying not to wear on her face the undeniable knowledge that she's been saddled with a cinematic series sort of like that godawful Footloose remake when compared to the original.
Allegiant is filled with an abundance of fun sci-fi ideas, though it never really goes anywhere with any of them. The same is true for a good majority of the cast, though I will admit that Woodley shows signs of vulnerability here that only became more frustrating as it seemed every time the film was moving toward emotional relevance director Robert Schwentke (Insurgent, R.I.P.D.) pulls back in favor of faux mysticism. While I've never found the chemistry between Woodley and James to be compelling, James has an ability to smolder transparently that could be used so much more effectively than it is. Miles Teller, essentially the film's comic relief and sarcastic centerpoint, is saddled with so many mind-numblingly lifeless lines that you can practically feel his investment in the film dripping away.
Ansel Elgort? Think Peeta-lite.
While Jeff Daniels adds a certain intrigue as David, and I'll admit that more than once I found myself contemplating Church of Scientology's David Miscavige, the simple truth is it's not nearly enough to salvage a film that is gloomy, underwhelming and so dedicated to its mob mentality scenes that you start to feel like maybe you've stumbled into a Trump rally.
In case you're wondering, that's not a compliment.
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic