‘Allegiant’ Review: You Can’t Cover up a Convoluted Story with Special Effects

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There’s a common theory that going into a movie with low expectations will help you appreciate it more and leave you pleasantly surprised. That’s certainly not the case for Allegiant.

The Divergent series had the potential to be the next Hunger Games. The first film boasted an amazing cast (except for the incredibly boring Theo James), had some impressive action sequences, and built an interesting world that left viewers wanting more. Sure it had an incredibly dull love story and a slew of YA cliches, but it was still a pretty decent effort with great franchise-potential. However, the second film pretty much flushed that potential down the toilet with bad dialogue, an overload of subplots and a convoluted story. So at this point, why should I even bother reviewing Allegiant? Because I’m a glutton for punishment.

If you thought Insurgent was dull and convoluted, prepare to be blown away. Allegiant takes an already complicated story and throws even more subplots and exposition on top of it. Seeing as this is one of those first-part films, the whole thing is needlessly bloated with narrative dialogue to set up the second part. The story has so many new developments and turns that it’s almost impossible to keep track of them. Of course, the overly-confusing story causes this movie to veer into a series of plot holes that rival Camp Green Lake. The whole thing is just a sloppy disaster that not even the world’s best director could clean up.

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As for the performances, it’s amazing to see absolutely none of the returning cast members even try to give a good performance. In the first film, Shailene Woodley gave a likable, vulnerable performance as Tris that highlighted her character’s development from an ordinary citizen to a dauntless hero. She was even great in the second film, especially in the scene where her character was forced to confess to killing a friend’s boyfriend. Sadly, the fact that she is contractually stuck in this increasingly bad film series has clearly taken its toll on her.

Woodley is absolutely terrible in this film. Her delivery of the already awful dialogue was atrocious, she barely showed emotion, and she just seemed bored throughout the whole thing. It was very disheartening to see a proven actress give such a bad performance, but a film like this didn’t deserve one anyway.

Theo James of course reprises his role as the boring male love interest, treating this film more like a chance to show off his good looks than a chance to actually act. Miles Teller gives an already unlikable character an even more unlikable performance, Ansel Elgort almost refuses to emote at all, and Zoë Kravitz is just there to fill time. The apathetic acting all across the board was almost enough to make me miss Jai Courtney.

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The only actor who seems to give two damns about his role Jeff Daniels, who is a newcomer to this series. While it isn’t exactly award-worthy, Daniels’ layered performance is still the highlight of the entire film. Congratulations Jeff; in a trainwreck like this, you are clearly not the problem.

In what seems like an attempt to cover up how unappealing the writing and acting is, the film shamelessly injects an overdose of special effects to distract the audience. There are floating glass elevators, incoherently constructed buildings, and some kind of floating disks that produce CG bubbles.

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Just like with Gods of Egypt (another Lionsgate film), the filmmakers seems to think that throwing a bunch of superimposed graphics on the screen will trick viewers into thinking the movie they made isn’t boring. Perhaps the most obvious example of this is the scene where Tris (Shailene Woodley) takes some kind of futuristic shower. She undresses, is almost suffocated in an orange blob of CG slime, and it just rinses off of her. This scene is entirely pointless to the story and only serves to show off the special effects…and perhaps cater to somebody’s unorthodox fetish.

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Admittedly, some of the effects are pretty sleek and interesting to look at. Unlike most movie wastelands, the wasteland in this film (known as “the fringe”) is quite colorful. The ground is pink with yellow splotches, the rivers have red water, and even the rain looks like cherry kool-aid. Unfortunately, we don’t see much of this location in the film, as most of it takes place indoors. It even lazily re-uses the same location of the previous film’s final battle for its own climax.

In the hands of a better writer, this series could have been amazing. Again, the first film built a world that had the potential for a great story. Even the second film had its moments. Allegiant, on the other hand, completely buries any potential that the franchise had, and all we can do is laugh at how much of a cliched mess it is. Hopefully we can get another good YA adaptation sometime in the near future.

Final Rating: 3/10

2 Comments

  1. The truth is that the books were the same. The first book was written as her MFA thesis, so she had help with content and line editing from her professors/advisors. Without this guidance, the second book crumbled a bit, and the third was rushed to publication and completely fell apart. I won’t spoil it for those who haven’t read it, but the third book has a “twist” that comes out of nowhere and is barely described. It was ridiculous. I saw the first film, but won’t go to see the others.

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