'The Divergent Series: Allegiant' is like a parody of YA movies
Even Shailene Woodley seems bored in a franchise that isn't even done yet.
‘The Divergent Series: Allegiant’
Director: Robert Schwentke
Stars: Shailene Woodley, Theo James
1 Globe (out of 5)
We know what you’re thinking: Is the “Divergent” series the YA franchise where our heroine (Shailene Woodley) is good at archery or has tattoos? (It’s tattoos.) Is the rebel leader-turned-villain played by Julianne Moore or Naomi Watts? (It’s Watts.) Does Ashley Judd pop up as the dead mother or maybe it was Diane Lane? (It was Judd.) Wasn’t Kate Winslet in this once? (She was.)
In the third (but not final) installment, called “Allegiant,” not only do all the previous “Divergent” entries start to all blend together, but so do all YA movies. The remote post-apocalyptic wasteland could be from “The Maze Runner” or even “The Giver,” though this one includes bloody rain, which is kind of cool. The books, by Veronica Roth, were clearly written to get in on the “Hunger Games” action, but their own myth is interchangeable with all the others, as though existing a massive super-myth whose parts are all slightly different but basically the same bull.
Building on whatever happened in the one from last March, it finds the story at the point in the YA structure where the good guy revolutionaries have turned into bad guy fascists. There’s a wall plus an angry mob whipped into an uncontrollable fury, though any resemblance to the future Trump Administration is definitely accidental. Shailene Woodley’s “pure”-gened Tris and buds — including her rent-a-stud boo Theo James, a disused Zoe Kravitz and Ansel Elgort as the clumsy nerd — escape from the clutches of Watts’ crypto-dictator to a secret utopia hidden in the wastelands, ruled by the films’ fifth or sixth overqualified great actor, Jeff Daniels. Of course this oasis of eugenicists turns out too good to be true.
What follows could pass as a lampoon of the movie trend, if it had more than a single intentionally funny joke. (Miles Teller, as the films’ very own ’80s James Spader, seems to intentionally let his every wan quip crash and burn.) Committed to a franchise that doesn’t underperform enough to be cancelled midstream, the actors, most of them talented, look disengaged. They’re not given much to work with and especially to say, this being the kind of movie where people walk into rooms and spout, “Tobias Eaton. You’ve been assigned to me.” During juiceless action scenes driven by Hans Zimmer-ian power chords, they let their CGI avatars do the bulk of the gruntwork, most distractingly during a flying pod chase in which the actors clearly just sat in a shaking box in front of a green screen.
The YA films that mix sleek white interiors in which bombed-up grunge and are obsessed with gizmos and doodads over hand-crafted weaponry, the “Divergent”’s boast so many terms and names — “plasma globes,” “memory tabs,” “memory serum,” “The Bureau of Genetic Welfare” and, more boringly, “drones” — that a cheat sheet should have been provided. It wants to bombard you with so much stuff you might not notice everyone’s going through the motions — that it feels less human than the inhumanity carried out by baddies onscreen, that even the idea of a hero wrestling with her own PTSD is a copy of a copy of a copy, reproduced so many times the words and feelings no longer have meaning. It’s appropriate that this round features a gas that erases people’s memories; surely the makers wish you wouldn’t remember all the films it’s ripping off. Better yet, if only we could forget a film so shopworn even the preternaturally warm Woodley looks bored.
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