Everybody, say hello to Hollywood’s most presumptuous franchise!
Whoever decided that it would be a great idea to immediately green light three sequels to Divergent (2014) – splitting the final book of the literary series which it’s based on into two films – is going to be in a lot of trouble come their next performance review. It’s a franchise that started its run with a barely logical premise (but a reasonable first film, nonetheless), that’s gone on to become increasingly convoluted and sloppy as the story has progressed. The presumption that the films would be critically and commercially successful enough to spawn an expanded franchise is one which is looking more than a bit silly now.
The cynic in me can’t help but feel that it’s a horrible cash grab gone awry.
Shailene Woodley’s Mopey McMopeFace (aka Tris) returns as Divergent numero uno, a figurehead in a rebellion against the system. Or so the film tells us. What it shows us however, is that Tris is really, really, really not the sharpest of knives in the drawer. Not for the first time we see her wrongly placing her trust in people who are quite glaringly bad eggs. Be it Miles Teller’s remarkably annoying Peter, or Jeff Daniels’ David, who’s just a twirly moustache away from being the most obvious villain possible. At the same time she shuns the sound advice of her apparent lover Four (the reliably solid Theo James), in spite of the fact that he’s quite clearly the only person she can actually fully trust. It’s difficult to buy her as a leader of the people when she’s giving it her level best to get herself into trouble at every given opportunity.
This time around, Tris, Four and company head beyond the wall that has kept them and many others trapped inside the city of Chicago their entire lives. No longer do the factions that the government kept them in bind them. Instead, it turns out that there is life beyond the wall, and in fact Chicago and the faction system itself has been part of an elaborate, illogical experiment being run by Jeff Daniels’ leader of the Bureau of Genetic Welfare, who are looking to cultivate “pure” Divergents, such as Tris. Naturally, the Bureau’s means of doing so are nothing short of nefarious.
The world outside the wall throws up plenty of questions. Here are just a few which I had when watching Allegiant:
- If the Earth is so deeply polluted that it rains acid, why isn’t this the case in Chicago, a mere hop over a wall away?
- Why does the Earth look like Mars?
- Who the heck invented a floating bubble, anti-pollution, transport system? Would a hazmat suit not have done the job and been less costly?
- Why is it all so terribly brought to life?
Aside from purely superficial matters, the expansion of the film’s world opens rifts in the story, which it makes very little effort to fix. You know the saying, “don’t build a house on sand”? It applies here. The foundations of The Divergent Series’ universe have never been satisfactorily laid, and now that the films are pushing deeper into its lore, issues with the entire structure of the franchise are being revealed.
There are small moments here and there which impress, but nothing that’s likely to prove particularly memorable. These moments are just that – brief, fleeting, and not regular enough. At this point the franchise is supposed to be setting up its grand finale with aplomb. Instead it does so with a whimper.
Rating (out of 5):