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Allegiant – film review

April 25, 2016


Series integrity derailed by confused and unnecessary complexity.

Reviewed on Wednesday 6h April 2016


Directed by Robert Schwentke. Screenplay by Noah Oppenheim and Adam Cooper & Bill Collage, based on the book by Veronica Roth. Starring: Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Octavia Spencer, Jai Courtney, Miles Teller, Naomi Watts and Jeff Daniels. Running time: 120 mins.

At the conclusion of the previous installment, Insurgent, we learned (as a result of     the heroic actions of Tris and her friends) that the walled-in city of Chicago and its society of factions was in fact an artificial construct of forces unknown, located beyond the wall. In this latest installment, we discover who is responsible and for what purpose. Disappointingly however, the answers are far less intriguing than one would hope from all the eager anticipation and good will generated by director Schwentke’s far superior previous installment.

The biggest problem with Allegiant appears to be the unfocussed and messy screenplay by Noah Oppenheimer (The Maze Runner) and Adam Cooper & Bill Collage (Exodus: Gods and Kings). Although I’m unfamiliar with the source novels,     I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the Allegiant book was far more coherent and understandable than this filmed version. The film begins promisingly, with a strong and compelling opening (addressing an issue which could easily plague any social uprising – where revolutionary leaders, filling the post-revolution vacuum of control become just as despotic and tyrannical as the regime they have overthrown) – but the narrative quickly becomes so needlessly complicated, discarding such compelling concepts – as to end up being pretty much incomprehensible. Indeed, I found myself waiting for the penny to drop – only – it never does (well, not to any satisfying degree). If comparison can be drawn between the Divergent series of films and The Matrix, then Allegiant is most definitely the Matrix Reloaded of the series. Aside from forcing auds to shell out twice as much money in order to experience a satisfying conclusion, it is unclear (artistically at least) why the studio decided to leave the finale of this film open-ended. It remains to be seen, but perhaps it was to provide auds with a less down-beat ending than was depicted in the source novel. Apparently there is very little story remaining in the source novel which could concievably be used to flesh out an additional two hour installment, so I guess it remains to be seen exactly what – if anything – a fourth movie could realistically add to the story.

Despite my misgivings regarding a distinct lack of focus in the screenplay, the work of helmer Robert Schwentke once again delivers some beautifully staged action sequences – the over-the-wall sequence during the movie’s first twenty minutes being the stand-out. And, interestingly, Shane Carruth (the celebrated auteur behind indie sci-fi darlings Primer and Upstream Color) is mentioned in the credits as ‘memory advisor’ – presumably having a hand in how the recorded memories of Tris’s mother are presented as a kind of virtual reality.

As with the previous two installments, Allegiant is as equally visually impressive; both in terms of cinematography and production design. Joseph Kosinski’s brilliant,     if – as yet underappreciated 2013 masterwork Oblivion is most likely an inspiration here; with the production design of the flying vehicles and architecture of the futuristc city clearly mirroring the look of that particular film. Also mirrored, incidently, is the score by Joseph Trapenese; who also, as it happens, scored Oblivion (collaborating with French synthpop band M83). Unlike Oblivion, however, none of the high tech presented here appears to have a legitimate reason for being. Indeed, Allegiant is so swamped with technology (the flying targeting drones being a prime example) – it’s almost as if all this superfluous stuff has only been incorporated in order to keep short attention spans stimulated.

Taking the apparent box office failure of this latest installment in their stride, the studio still appears adament in pushing ahead with a proposed finale, Ascendant, which will be released in 2017. Sadly though, I can’t see myself getting anywhere near as excited about it. A major disappointment.

2.5 stars out of 5

Star ratings: 1 – poor / 2 – below average / 3 – good / 4 – excellent / 5 – unmissable

Viewed at Norwood Cinemas, Adelaide, April 6th 2016.

Greg Moss is a film school graduate with a background in directing music videos   and is currently seeking representation as a screenwriter. He likes creative people, feeding the cat and watching genre movies. Greg can also be heard on the Blu-ray commentary track for the 1980 sci-fi thriller Saturn 3, out now from Scream Factory.


From → film reviews

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