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Saturday, 23 July 2016

Allegiant (2016).


Picture the scene. It is three in the afternoon. Still groggy, unhappy because I haven't taken my painkillers yet, I look at my review schedule to see what's been put in for today, suspecting that it's probably a low effort editorial. But the space for Saturday is blank. I gasp in alarm. It is that day. The day where, in the absence of anything else to talk about, I have to watch Allegiant

It's no secret that I think the Divergent films are terrible. I panned both the first and the second films, and I fully expected to find Allegiant to be just as awful. Well, it lived up to that expectation, albeit not quite in the way I thought it would.

Set some time after Insurgent, Allegiant sees Tris and Four - whose names I genuinely forgot at first - escaping Chicago, now under the control of Four's mother, Evelyn, who is holding sham trials for Erudite and their allies. Fleeing the city with Tris' Erudite brother Caleb, and their friends Christina and Peter, the group heads into the blasted wasteland beyond the city walls, where they eventually encounter the Bureau of Genetic Welfare. However, before long it's revealed that the Bureau's leader, David, has been lying to Tris, along with abducting children, and plans to manipulate Evelyn into releasing a memory erasing serum over all of Chicago.

Wow, Four is dull. Still, slightly longer hair suits Theo James.

Or, at least, I think that's what happened. To be honest, it was all very confusing, because I had trouble focusing on the film for more than six minutes at a stretch. It was all just so boring. I've talked before about how these are very cynical films without any kind of passion or enthusiasm behind them, but if anything, the amount of enthusiasm going into these films has waned with each one.

This was no more apparent than during the dramatic moment where Tory, played by Maggie Q, dies: The background sounds dim, leaving just music and the characters' voices, in a pretty old film trick, but it falls completely flat because nobody involved sounds like they're that bothered. As they scream for Tory to wake up, they sound less like a friend and mentor figure has just died and more like they're being slightly inconvenienced by her taking an over-long nap. Then, about a minute later, the moment is over and it's never referenced again, with the entire cast apparently forgetting that Tory ever existed.

That's kind of the mode the entire film is in. Actors drone their lines as if they're reading them off a script for the first time (with the exception of Octavia Spencer, who puts her all into every one of her regrettably few scenes), the music sounds like it was composed via committee by sampling tracks from other films, the cinematography can best be described as 'workmanlike.' Some effort is put into set design, especially when designing the more science fiction-y parts of the film, like the futuristic city of Providence, but not a tremendous amount.

Tris is also really dull.

In fact, it's kind of bizarre how uninspired this film is, because it's not like the people working on it are untalented. Several of the cast members - Zoe Kravitz, Naomi Watts, Daniel Dae Kim, and Jeff Daniels, for example - have proven acting chops that they've seemingly decided not to bring to the table this time. Robert Schwentke might not be the most accomplished director, but he's done genuinely good work on The Time Traveler's Wife, and even on quicker paced films like R.I.P.D. Florian Ballhaus' cinematography on films like The Book Thief has been pretty thoroughly celebrated, and Lucy Fisher was a producer on The Great Gatsby, a film that met with significant critical acclaim.

Apparently, they either all forgot their talents when making this film, or they just weren't enthused about it all, and it seems more like the latter. This film feels like one that nobody really wanted to make, and moreover, like one that nobody was really all that concerned with the quality of, since people would go and watch it regardless.

They make a very boring couple.

I can't quite blame them for not being buzzed about the source material, either, because the storyline makes negative amounts of sense. We were already on shaky ground with the bizarre faction system and the equally bizarre genetics guff - which the film hammers in, having a character gravely intone a monologue on genetic manipulation, including the odd assertion that 'people who are too peaceful become passive, and people who are too intelligent lack compassion' - but this film flings itself off into the deep end by tying those weird ideas into an incoherent plotline involving memory serums, evil science bureaus, child abduction, and schemes to get extended funding. 

(I did, at least, like that the council set up to be evil wrong'uns turned out to be totally normal and fairly nice people.)

The real kicker? This isn't the last film. Oh, no, the final book is getting split into two films, because that's all the rage with young adult film adaptations, so come this time next year, I'm going to have to watch and review another two hours of complete dross. Great. Good. Nice.

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