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

I’m smarter than a beaver.

Prey (2022) (SPOILERS) If nothing else, I have to respect Dan Trachtenberg’s cynical pragmatism. How do I not only get a project off the ground, but fast-tracked as well? I know, a woke Predator movie! Woke Disney won’t be able to resist! And so, it comes to pass. Luckily for Prey , it gets to bypass cinemas and so the same sorry fate of Lightyear . Less fortunately, it’s a patience-testing snook cocking at historicity (or at least, assumed historicity), in which a young, pint-sized Comanche girl who wishes to hunt and fish – and doubtless shoot to boot – with the big boys gets to take on a Predator and make mincemeat of him. Well, of course , she does. She’s a girl, innit?

I’m the famous comedian, Arnold Braunschweiger.

Last Action Hero (1993) (SPOILERS) Make no mistake, Last Action Hero is a mess. But even as a mess, it might be more interesting than any other movie Arnie made during that decade, perhaps even in his entire career. Hellzapoppin’ (after the 1941 picture, itself based on a Broadway revue) has virtually become an adjective to describe films that comment upon their own artifice, break the fourth wall, and generally disrespect the convention of suspending disbelief in the fictions we see parading across the screen. It was fairly audacious, some would say foolish, of Arnie to attempt something of that nature at this point in his career, which was at its peak, rather than playing it safe. That he stumbled profoundly, emphatically so since he went up against the behemoth that is Jurassic Park (slotted in after the fact to open first), should not blind one to the considerable merits of his ultimate, and final, really, attempt to experiment with the limits of his screen persona.

If you ride like lightning, you're going to crash like thunder.

The Place Beyond the Pines (2012) (SPOILERS) There’s something daringly perverse about the attempt to weave a serious-minded, generation-spanning saga from the hare-brained premise of The Place Beyond the Pines . When he learns he is a daddy, a fairground stunt biker turns bank robber in order to provide for his family. It’s the kind of “only-in-Hollywood” fantasy premise you might expect from a system that unleashed Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man and Point Break on the world. But this is an indie-minded movie from the director of the acclaimed Blue Valentine ; it demands respect and earnest appraisal. Unfortunately it never recovers from the abject silliness of the set-up. The picture is littered with piecemeal characters and scenarios. There’s a hope that maybe the big themes will even out the rocky terrain but in the end it’s because of this overreaching ambition that the film ends up so undernourished. The inspiration for the movie

Everyone creates the thing they dread.

Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015) (SPOILERS) Avengers: Age of Ultron ’s problem isn’t one of lack. It benefits from a solid central plot. It features a host of standout scenes and set pieces. It hands (most of) its characters strong defining moments. It doesn’t even suffer now the “wow” factor of seeing the team together for the first time has subsided. Its problem is that it’s too encumbered. Maybe its asking to much of a director to effectively martial the many different elements required by an ensemble superhero movie such as this, yet Joss Whedon’s predecessor feels positively lean in comparison. Part of this is simply down to the demands of the vaster Marvel franchise machine. Seeds are laid for Captain America: Civil War , Infinity Wars I & II , Black Panther and Thor: Ragnarok . It feels like several spinning plates too many. Such activity occasionally became over-intrusive on previous occasions ( Iron Man II ), but there are points in Age of Ultron whe

Death to Bill and Ted!

Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey (1991) (SPOILERS) The game of how few sequels are actually better than the original is so well worn, it was old when Scream 2 made a major meta thing out of it (and it wasn’t). Bill & Ted Go to Hell , as Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey was originally called, is one such, not that Excellent Adventure is anything to be sneezed at, but this one’s more confident, even more playful, more assured and more smartly stupid. And in Peter Hewitt it has a director with a much more overt and fittingly cartoonish style than the amiably pedestrian Stephen Herrick. Evil Bill : First, we totally kill Bill and Ted. Evil Ted : Then we take over their lives. My recollection of the picture’s general consensus was that it surpassed the sleeper hit original, but Rotten Tomatoes’ review aggregator suggests a less universal response. And, while it didn’t rock any oceans at the box office, Bogus Journey and Point Break did quite nicely for Keanu Reev

This entire edifice you see around you, built on jute.

Jeeves and Wooster 3.3: Cyril and the Broadway Musical  (aka Introduction on Broadway) Well, that’s a relief. After a couple of middling episodes, the third season bounces right back, and that's despite Bertie continuing his transatlantic trip. Clive Exton once again plunders  Carry On, Jeeves  but this time blends it with a tale from  The Inimitable Jeeves  for the brightest spots, as Cyril Basington-Basington (a sublimely drippy Nicholas Hewetson) pursues his stage career against Aunt Agatha's wishes.

I think it’s pretty clear whose side the Lord’s on, Barrington.

Monte Carlo or Bust aka  Those Daring Young Men in Their Jaunty Jalopies (1969) (SPOILERS) Ken Annakin’s semi-sequel to Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines tends to be rather maligned, usually compared negatively to its more famous predecessor. Which makes me rather wonder if those expressing said opinion have ever taken the time to scrutinise them side by side. Or watch them back to back (which would be more sensible). Because Monte Carlo or Bust is by far the superior movie. Indeed, for all its imperfections and foibles (not least a performance from Tony Curtis requiring a taste for comic ham), I adore it. It’s probably the best wacky race movie there is, simply because each set of competitors, shamelessly exemplifying a different national stereotype (albeit there are two pairs of Brits, and a damsel in distress), are vibrant and cartoonish in the best sense. Albeit, it has to be admitted that, as far as said stereotypes go, Annakin’s home side win

Poetry in translation is like taking a shower with a raincoat on.

Paterson (2016) (SPOILERS) Spoiling a movie where nothing much happens is difficult, but I tend to put the tag on in a cautionary sense much of the time. Paterson is Jim Jarmusch at his most inert and ambient but also his most rewardingly meditative. Paterson (Adam Driver), a bus driver and modest poet living in Paterson, New Jersey, is a stoic in a fundamental sense, and if he has a character arc of any description, which he doesn’t really, it’s the realisation that is what he is. Jarmusch’s picture is absent major conflict or drama; the most significant episodes feature Paterson’s bus breaking down, the English bull terrier Marvin – whom Paterson doesn’t care for but girlfriend Laura (Golshifteh Farahani) dotes on – destroying his book of poetry, and an altercation at the local bar involving a gun that turns out to be a water pistol. And Paterson takes it all in his stride, genial to the last, even the ruination of his most earnest, devoted work (the only disappoint

Just because you are a character doesn't mean that you have character.

Pulp Fiction (1994) (SPOILERS) From a UK perspective, Pulp Fiction ’s success seemed like a fait accompli; Reservoir Dogs had gone beyond the mere cult item it was Stateside and impacted mainstream culture itself (hard to believe now that it was once banned on home video); it was a case of Tarantino filling a gap in the market no one knew was there until he drew attention to it (and which quickly became over-saturated with pale imitators subsequently). Where his debut was a grower, Pulp Fiction hit the ground running, an instant critical and commercial success (it won the Palme d’Or four months before its release), only made cooler by being robbed of the Best Picture Oscar by Forrest Gump . And unlike some famously-cited should-have-beens, Tarantino’s masterpiece really did deserve it.

Piece by piece, the camel enters the couscous.

The Forgiven (2021) (SPOILERS) By this point, the differences between filmmaker John Michael McDonagh and his younger brother, filmmaker and playwright Martin McDonagh, are fairly clearly established. Both wear badges of irreverence and provocation in their writing, and a willingness to tackle – or take pot-shots – at bigger issues, ones that may find them dangling their toes in hot water. But Martin receives the lion’s share of the critical attention, while John is generally recognised as the slightly lesser light. Sure, some might mistake Seven Psychopaths for a John movie, and Calvary for a Martin one, but there’s a more flagrant sense of attention seeking in John’s work, and concomitantly less substance. The Forgiven is clearly aiming more in the expressly substantial vein of John’s earlier Calvary, but it ultimately bears the same kind of issues in delivery.