Three movies deep into a four-film saga, The Divergent Series is running on fumes. Allegiant, which was originally planned as the final film before the trilogy was extended in life of Twilight and The Hunger Games splitting their finales, improves upon the previous franchise entries without offering much, if any, reason to yearn for 2017’s Ascendant.
Jeanine is dead and in her place Four’s faction mother, Evelyn (Naomi Watts), has taken command. Tris (Shailene Woodley) and Four (Theo James) soon realize this change will not save the people of Chicago, so they set out to venture beyond the city walls for the very first time. Joining them is Caleb (Ansel Elgort), Tris’ brother, and Peter (Miles Teller), the lovable asshole that appears to hate his existence in this series almost as much as the actor playing him. Their travels lead to the discovery of even more previously unknown truths about the world around them, and with those revelations comes a new set of twists and turns that – more often than not – feel a lot like the twists and turns of the previous film, as well as that of the most recent Maze Runner film.
This is not the place to spoil a film’s secrets, but suffice it to say Tris makes a poor and surprising decision to not trust the only people she has been able to trust through the entire franchise for no discernible reason whatsoever, and everyone must face some number of consequences as a result. What has been obvious to everyone from the very beginning, including the audience, is revealed to Tris just in time to turn the tables on the broken leadership seeking to control what remains of Chicago once more, but only enough to leave you wanting more. At least, this is the intent of the film’s final act, but it’s delivered in such a haphazard fashion that you couldn’t be blamed for thinking the series was actually at its end. It should be.
At one point in the first act, Peter—while being transported in an orange bubble that appears to be magically tethered to a flying ship—non-ironically uses the word “gadzooks” to describe his first impressions of an impossible piece of architecture. That is where the bar for quality is set not only with the script, but for the entire film.
What Allegiant improves upon from the previous Divergent films is largely in its pacing and visual effects, as well as a shockingly good performance from Theo James. I don’t know if the writing for his character is improving, or if he is simply growing as an actor, but his performance is hands down the best element of this film. He even outshines Jeff Daniels, who is tasked with the thankless role of picking up the “too talented to be in a film like this” baton where Kate Winslet dropped it at the end of 2015’s Insurgent. Daniels does what he can with the material he’s given, but he’s ultimately a carbon copy of any movie bad guy disguised as good guy in a position of power.
There is nothing in Allegiant that will appeal to anyone who hasn’t already seen the previous films, but there also isn’t much here for those that did. You wouldn’t be alone if you found yourself questioning why you have already invested more than five hours into these characters long before the credits ran on this film, but like most you will probably sit it out anyway, hoping to find something to redeem the time and money already spent. I imagine the studio is hoping you ultimately decide you have to stay as well, and that you will pay once more to complete the saga next year. If you made it this far you might as well see where it ends, right?