If most film adaptations of young adult novels follow a particular pattern (namely: create as faithful an adaptation as possible), Divergent and its sequels have felt it necessary to, well, diverge from the pattern. With both Insurgent and Allegiant, the second and third films in the series, the films have taken portions of the books and created new stories. That’s not necessarily a problem, but Insurgent showed that such a move needs stronger talent than that film’s director, Robert Schwentke (whose filmography is littered with lousy sequels to mediocre-to-decent films) and co-writer Akiva Goldsman (Batman & Robin – need I say more?). Goldsman is fortunately gone, and Schwentke does a better job with his second film in the series, but even though Allegiant is ultimately the most interesting of this series’ entries to date, it’s not enough to break the sense that a lot more work was needed with this film.
Allegiant picks up where Insurgent left off, with the faction system that dominated Chicago for centuries banished. In its place is nothing new, outside of commands by revolutionary leader Evelyn (Naomi Watts) to keep the city’s borders closed and to deliver justice to those responsible for oppressing people under the faction system. This doesn’t sit well with Tris (Shailene Woodley), so she teams up with love interest/Evelyn’s son Four (Theo James) and the series’ core secondary characters (Miles Teller, Ansel Elgort, Zoë Kravitz) to escape over the wall.
Once they escape, they initially find themselves in a toxic wasteland, before being taken into a futuristic city built on the former O’Hare Airport. These new environments create enough of a shift in atmosphere after the previous two films to make them interesting, with the characters appropriately surprised by these new places. Eventually, though, the film falls back to some of the norms of the series, complete with some schlocky action scenes and Tris encountering an authority figure played by a notable actor. In this case, the figure is David (Jeff Daniels), who is responsible in some form for her life’s outcomes to date. As she’s done in the past, Tris and many of the others trust the governing body of this area, before beginning to mistrust and ultimately rebel.
Like its predecessors, Allegiant is frustrating because it ultimately finds a way to repeat the same basic outline of the original film, wasting its talented cast in the process. At the same time, those cast members get slightly better material this time, and the infusion of different sci-fi elements makes for a more interesting project. Maybe with next year’s grand finale (Ascendant, f/k/a Allegiant – Part 2), the series will finally go for broke and create a solid finale. Otherwise, this series has just been a waste of a talented cast and audience time for four years.