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Family Movie Review: The Divergent Series: Allegiant (PG-13)

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MPAA Rating: PG-13        Length: 121 minutes

Age Appropriate For: 13+. This dystopian young-adult series continues with the same kind of content as previous films ‘Insurgent’ and ‘Divergent’: there is some cursing; some implied nudity (individual bodies silhouetted in showers, with a woman viewed from behind and a man viewed shirtless), some kissing and sexual tension, and lots of violence, including tons of people killed, kidnappings, shootouts, car crashes, explosions, hand-to-hand combat, stabbings, executions, and lots of other action. It isn’t gory or bloody, but this is a film about a war between various groups of people, and the violence is nearly constant.

‘The Divergent Series’ continues with ‘Allegiant,’ which manages to be profoundly confusing and almost entirely inert. The film’s strong action sequences can’t redeem a conflicting, irritating plot.

By Roxana Hadadi

“Allegiant” is the third film in “The Divergent Series” franchise, and things are just as confusing as ever.

This series has tried its hardest to escape the shadow of the “The Hunger Games,” but between the originally unclear source material in the form of Veronica Roth’s increasingly disappointing novels and the changes made for each film, this story isn’t particularly direct or engaging. “Allegiant” benefits from good visuals and exciting action scenes, but this is a film that narratively feels like it has accomplished nothing.

And there’s still one more film to come, next year’s “Ascendant,” meaning that “Allegiant” seems quite markedly like a franchise treading water in an attempt to rake in box office dollars. Splitting the final book in a film adaptation started with “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2,” but the same move made by this franchise, which is so contradictory in its world-building and so aimless in its storytelling, is undeniably egregious.

“Allegiant” starts soon after “Insurgent,” when protagonist Tris (Shailene Woodley, of “The Fault In Our Stars”), her boyfriend Four (Theo James, of “Insurgent”), and their friends helped overthrow the Faction system, which divided the citizens of Chicago into various groups that couldn’t really interact with each other. But Four’s mother, Evelyn (Naomi Watts, of “St. Vincent”), who has stepped into a new leadership role, is struggling under the pressure, allowing executions and leading through violence and fear.

Evelyn is refusing to let anyone leave Chicago, even though a twist at the end of “Insurgent” revealed that there is a world out past their walls waiting to welcome them, especially Tris, whose status as a “Divergent”—the only person assuming a variety of characteristics from all the Factions—is a huge deal. So against Evelyn’s orders, Tris, Four, and their friends break out of Chicago and go into the radioactive Fringe, where they are rescued and taken to the Bureau of Genetic Welfare.

It’s at this high-tech, futuristic facility that Tris meets David (Jeff Daniels, of “The Martian”), the leader of the Bureau, who tells Tris that only her “pure” genetic status can save Chicago; he labels other Divergents, including Four, as “damaged,” and not as valuable as Tris. What his true intentions are, and how he works to separate Tris from Four, signal another threat for the couple—and for the future of Chicago, too.

The “Divergent” series consistently suggests that both science and adults are the enemy, and “Allegiant” ramps up that ideology by introducing another grownup who ends up being a bad guy; it’s not a spoiler to reveal that David isn’t who he seems. But what is so frustrating about this constant bait-and-switch is that it means characters barely, if at all, grow: Tris is always putting her trust in the wrong person, Four is always the wary skeptic, their frenemy Peter (Miles Teller, of “Fantastic Four”) is always going to be searching for a double-cross opportunity, and so on.

So every step forward in the narrative is undermined and undone a few scenes later, which means by the end of “Allegiant,” not much has happened. Tris’s character in particular feels sidelined here—the movie seems to lessen Woodley’s screentime in favor of the very-handsome James and the infighting between Watts’s character and Octavia Spencer’s more level-headed leader, but this is a movie that is supposed to be about Tris. How she becomes almost tangential to the “Allegiant” storyline is a disappointing change.

There are good elements of “Allegiant” that show how far the franchise has come, like Teller’s expert smarminess and the action sequences, like a fight scene in a crashing ship that is particularly well-done. But “Allegiant” delivers a narrative that makes very little sense and a protagonist who has very little to do, and that doesn’t bode well for “Ascendant” at all.

Interested in a previously released film? Read our reviews of films already showing in your local theater.

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