Skip to main content

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.

Popular posts from this blog

Abandon selective targeting. Shoot everything.

28 Weeks Later (2007) (SPOILERS) The first five minutes of 28 Weeks Later are far and away the best part of this sequel, offering in quick succession a devastating moral quandary and a waking nightmare, immortalised on the screen. After that, while significantly more polished, Juan Carlos Fresnadillo reveals his concept to be altogether inferior to Danny Boyle and Alex Garland’s, falling back on the crutches of gore, nihilism, and disengaging and limiting shifts of focus between characters in whom one has little investment in the first place.

The Bible never said anything about amphetamines.

The Color of Money (1986) (SPOILERS) I tend to think it’s evident when Scorsese isn’t truly exercised by material. He can still invest every ounce of the technical acumen at his fingertips, and the results can dazzle on that level, but you don’t really feel the filmmaker in the film. Which, for one of his pictures to truly carry a wallop, you need to do. We’ve seen quite a few in such deficit in recent years, most often teaming with Leo. The Color of Money , however, is the first where it was out-and-out evident the subject matter wasn’t Marty’s bag. He needed it, desperately, to come off, but in the manner a tradesman who wants to keep getting jobs. This sequel to The Hustler doesn’t linger in the mind, however good it may be, moment by moment.

Doctors make the worst patients.

Coma (1978) (SPOILERS) Michael Crichton’s sophomore big-screen feature, and by some distance his best. Perhaps it’s simply that this a milieu known to him, or perhaps it’s that it’s very much aligned to the there-and-now and present, but Coma , despite the occasional lapse in this adaptation of colleague Robin Cook’s novel, is an effective, creepy, resonant thriller and then some. Crichton knows his subject, and it shows – the picture is confident and verisimilitudinous in a way none of his other directorial efforts are – and his low-key – some might say clinical – approach pays dividends. You might also call it prescient, but that would be to suggest its subject matter wasn’t immediately relevant then too.

I said I had no family. I didn’t say I had an empty apartment.

The Apartment (1960) (SPOILERS) Billy Wilder’s romcom delivered the genre that rare Best Picture Oscar winner. Albeit, The Apartment amounts to a rather grim (now) PG-rated scenario, one rife with adultery, attempted suicide, prostitution of the soul and subjective thereof of the body. And yet, it’s also, finally, rather sweet, so salving the darker passages and evidencing the director’s expertly judged balancing act. Time Out ’s Tom Milne suggested the ending was a cop out (“ boy forgives girl and all’s well ”). But really, what other ending did the audience or central characters deserve?

Your desecration of reality will not go unpunished.

2021-22 Best-of, Worst-of and Everything Else Besides The movies might be the most visible example of attempts to cling onto cultural remnants as the previous societal template clatters down the drain. It takes something people really want – unlike a Bond movie where he kicks the can – to suggest the model of yesteryear, one where a billion-dollar grosser was like sneezing. You can argue Spider-Man: No Way Home is replete with agendas of one sort or another, and that’s undoubtedly the case (that’s Hollywood), but crowding out any such extraneous elements (and they often are) is simply a consummate crowd-pleaser that taps into tangible nostalgia through its multiverse take. Of course, nostalgia for a mere seven years ago, for something you didn’t like anyway, is a symptom of how fraught these times have become.

Listen to the goddamn qualified scientists!

Don’t Look Up (2021) (SPOILERS) It’s testament to Don’t Look Up ’s “quality” that critics who would normally lap up this kind of liberal-causes messaging couldn’t find it within themselves to grant it a free pass. Adam McKay has attempted to refashion himself as a satirist since jettisoning former collaborator Will Ferrell, but as a Hollywood player and an inevitably socio-politically partisan one, he simply falls in line with the most obvious, fatuous propagandising.

Captain, he who walks in fire will burn his feet.

The Golden Voyage of Sinbad (1973) (SPOILERS) Ray Harryhausen returns to the kind of unadulterated fantasy material that made Jason and the Argonauts such a success – swords & stop motion, if you like. In between, there were a couple of less successful efforts, HG Wells adaptation First Men in the Moon and The Valley of the Gwangi (which I considered the best thing ever as a kid: dinosaur walks into a cowboy movie). Harryhausen’s special-effects supremacy – in a for-hire capacity – had also been consummately eclipsed by Raquel Welch’s fur bikini in One Million Years B.C . The Golden Voyage of Sinbad follows the expected Dynamation template – blank-slate hero, memorable creatures, McGuffin quest – but in its considerable favour, it also boasts a villainous performance by nobody-at-the-time, on-the-cusp-of-greatness Tom Baker.

Archimedes would split himself with envy.

Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger (1977) (SPOILERS) Generally, this seems to be the Ray Harryhausen Sinbad outing that gets the short straw in the appreciation stakes. Which is rather unfair. True, Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger lacks Tom Baker and his rich brown voice personifying evil incarnate – although Margaret Whiting more than holds her own in the wickedness stakes – and the structure follows the Harryhausen template perhaps over scrupulously (Beverly Cross previously collaborated with the stop-motion auteur on Jason and the Argonauts , and would again subsequently with Clash of the Titans ). But the storytelling is swift and sprightly, and the animation itself scores, achieving a degree of interaction frequently more proficient than its more lavishly praised peer group.

You just threw a donut in the hot zone!

Den of Thieves (2018) (SPOILERS) I'd heard this was a shameless  Heat  rip-off, and the presence of Gerard Butler seemed to confirm it would be passable-at-best B-heist hokum, so maybe it was just middling expectations, even having heard how enthused certain pockets of the Internet were, but  Den of Thieves  is a surprisingly very satisfying entry in the genre. I can't even fault it for attempting to Keyser Soze the whole shebang at the last moment – add a head in a box and you have three 1995 classics in one movie – even if that particular conceit doesn’t quite come together.

You have a very angry family, sir.

Eternals (2021) (SPOILERS) It would be overstating the case to suggest Eternals is a pleasant surprise, but given the adverse harbingers surrounding it, it’s a much more serviceable – if bloated – and thematically intriguing picture than I’d expected. The signature motifs of director and honestly-not-billionaire’s-progeny Chloé Zhao are present, mostly amounting to attempts at Malick-lite gauzy natural light and naturalism at odds with the rigidly unnatural material. There’s woke to spare too, since this is something of a Kevin Feige Phase Four flagship, one that rather floundered, showcasing his designs for a nu-MCU. Nevertheless, Eternals manages to maintain interest despite some very variable performances, effects, and the usual retreat into standard tropes, come the final big showdown.