Director: Robert Schwentke
Major Players: Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Jeff Daniels
Out Of Five: 2
Last week’s announcement of the director for the final instalment in The Divergent series can’t have been a coincidence. As Lee Toland Krieger takes over the reins for next year’s Ascendent, Robert Schwentke steps down after two episodes. And, having seen the latest one, Allegiant, it looks like he’s simply had enough of the Hunger Games lookalike franchise.
Part two, Insurgent, ended with revolution, the overthrow of a dictator and the beginning of the end of the faction system which had kept the peace in post-dystopian Chicago. Now Tris (Shailene Woodley) constantly wonders what is on the other side of the wall surrounding the city so, along with Four (Theo James), Peter (Miles Teller) and others, she decides to find out. What they discover is the Bureau of Genetic Welfare, where the conflict they’re used to is non-existent and the faction system has totally disappeared. The Director of the Bureau singles out Tris to play a key role in his latest and most important experiment but, at the same time, other members of her team are discovering that the Bureau isn’t all that it seems.
So at last we’ve made it out of Chicago, or what’s left of it. The makers would have you believe that the characters have developed to such an extent that they’re ready to venture outside the city and find a whole new world. What’s closer to the truth is that the franchise is fast running out of steam: the demise of the faction system means they have to find a new enemy elsewhere. And now, as well as being a Hunger Games clone, traces of other YA series are creeping in: getting past the wall is very Maze Runner, after all. By the time the climax arrives – it involves some bright orange memory erasing serum – it’s become predictable and just downright silly.
There are some changes from last time. As we’re constantly reminded, “Jeanine is dead” so no more Kate Winslet with her hand bandaged a la Keith Lemon and tottering high heels. We need somebody with serious acting chops to replace her and we get cuddly Jeff Daniels as the Director of the Bureau. He looks benevolent but you don’t have to have watched any of the other Divergent films to know that older people simply aren’t to be trusted in this particular world. He may have invented some neat pieces of kit – a surveillance system trained on Chicago, unbeknown to any of the residents, and some cute little saucer shaped personal droids – but his bigger plan is very far from cool.
Some of the characters from last time have undergone changes. Naomi Watts’ Evelyn, former faction leader and Four’s mum, has seized power and those left of Jeanine’s regime are the victims of show trials. She’s fast becoming a power hungry dictator and not far behind her comes Octavia Spencer’s Johanna, the wise leader of the Allegiant faction but now Evelyn’s arch enemy and prepared to go to war against her. But most disappointing of all is the shift in Peter (Miles Teller), the morally ambiguous member of Tris’ group. At least he had some complexity in the previous film: now he’s just reduced to being a would-be comic villain with lines that are meant to be wisecracks but are just limp and unfunny.
We’ve seen it all before, but this has to be the weakest of the Divergent series by far. The only hope left is that the new director will give the last in the franchise some dying breath. As far as Allegiant is concerned, just pass me that orange serum ……
Divergent:Allegiant is released in cinemas on Thursday, 10 March and will be reviewed on Talking Pictures on the same day.