Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Somebody seriously messed up the world.

The Divergent Series: Allegiant
(2016)

(SPOILERS) If anyone much cared about the Divergent series by this point, its sorry demise might have been a crime tantamount to Ralph Bakshi leaving The Lord of the Rings dangling halfway through, or the BBC only making two thirds of The Tripods. Lionsgate, misplaced greed having got the better of them, split the final Divergent book into two films, hoping for results in the manner of earlier YAs, or at least in a manner comparable with the earlier Divergents. Instead, Allegiant grossed $100m less than Insurgent, which failed to make inroads on the moderate performance of the original (and, unlike some YAs, these didn’t come cheap). The result? The studio has announced they would be making a direct-to-TV final part… And then a TV series?!


Some bean counter somewhere must have decided that the financial sense in being able to package a complete series was insufficient for medium or long term profit prospects (although, one has to wonder). So given that, how do they then have the gall to compound the crime, surely satisfying no one, least of all the faithful, by attempting a tangential bid for further bucks with a TV continuation? It’s a further slap in the face. They probably won’t finish it either (one season, ending on a forever unresolved cliffhanger). Where Ascendant’s fate stands currently is unclear, but Shanene Woodley was last heard confirming she knew nothing about where things were at. And presumably, given the wattage of some of the cast here (Jeff Daniels, Noami Watts, Miles Teller, etc.) serious recasting will be necessary for the switch to TV. We’re talking Home Alone 3 or Addams Family Reunion. It’s all a wretched mess, frankly.


Which is the opinion of many of this series as a whole. I quite liked the first instalment, didn’t care much for the second, which seemed like a glossy retread while failing to capitalise on the better features of the first. And this? Well, it’s better than the second. Less enamoured of tired VR, although the exposition regarding the hows and whys of a Purity War are never especially convincing or motivated; the genetically pure people outside the city have performed an experiment in which the compromised people within will hopefully eventually result in purity, just like those without... In that at least, it continues the series’ core conceptual risibility. That this all comes down to a “accept people for what they are” credo is fine ’n’ all, but not when expressed through such an incompetent premise.


There’s also too little emphasis on the ideas, what there are of them, such that Allegiant ends up looking like a string of sci-fi clichés in search of a point. The citizens of Chicago have been watched for years, such that David (Daniels) makes it sound as if Tris (Woodley) is almost the star of her own The Truman Show. But it’s of very little consequence. Nor is David’s autonomy to do what he likes with the city, as granted by the Council.  There’s a gas attack come the big climax, intended to wipe memories of Evelyn (Watts) and everyone else it seems, but it manifests as a wholly spurious plan. Meanwhile, Teller pops up every five minutes as the hapless lackey of all things rotten, siding himself with wrong ’uns and then wondering why he has such rotten luck when it all goes wrong.


So none of this really hangs together, but the movie has just enough action and variation that I wasn’t quite bored by it, unlike Insurgent, and aside from Theo James, who takes plankishness to new levels, the cast do solid work. Woodley in particular impresses more than her more popular YA contender Jennifer Lawrence, and if Daniels, Watts and Octavia Spencer can do this kind of thing in their sleep, they’re all welcome.


On which level, it’s ahead of The Maze Runner, but it ultimately falls fatally behind that series because there’s no sense that anyone involved cares about telling this story. At least with Runner, a series only marginally less stupid in its premise, director Wes Ball gives it his all, and it shows. Allegiant looks to have belly-flopped the series, but ironically, unlike the penultimate Hunger Games, it isn’t because it doesn’t have enough story juice (I don’t know how Ascendant will fare on that score), it’s because Lionsgate’s avaricious approach is writ large, dwarfing any other factors. The Divergent series was a YA also-ran, and now, for the time being at least, it seems the whole genre’s well may be dried up.


Agree? Disagree? Mildly or vehemently? Let me know in the comments below.

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