The Divergent Series:  Allegiant, Part One

 

            First, this movie would be of little interest to those who didn't see the first parts.  It picks up the story where the others left off, and doesn't really bother to explain much of how we got there.

            For the uninitiated, this is a dystopian future (aren't they all?) where in the ruins of the old city of Chicago, a few brave and stalwart young adults, having just saved the city from the power-hungry ruler, proceed to establish a kind of chaotic anarchy, and in order to overcome that, have established one of their own as ruler, who has become...power-hungry.  Yes, it's a bit of a cynical view about how those who create a revolution to overthrow tyranny inevitably develop their own particular brand of tyranny.  But what propels the plot here is the desire by the few remaining stalwarts to finally get past the huge fence surrounding the ruined city, to see what's on the other side.  They've been told it's nothing but more ruins, but they have to see for themselves.

            And what they find there is a more advanced civilization that appears to welcome them with open arms, but actually, they really just want to absorb them into their system, because Chicago is where their tyrannical leader, David (a smug Jeff Daniels) is running mind-erasing experiments.  That'll keep 'em docile.

            Our intrepid heroine, Tris (Shailene Woodley, the perky cute-girl-next-door type), has fallen in love with another stalwart, Four (Theo James, who tries hard to be a smoldering hunk, but mostly he just comes across as sour and expressionless), and together they figure out that everything on the outside is not as it seems.  And so they try to escape their new captors and return to the old Chicago, which is undergoing a kind of civil war in a struggle for control.  It seems that Evelyn (Naomi Watts), the current leader, is beginning to resemble too much the toppled dictator, but all she can talk about is her need to look after “her city.”  Johanna (Octavia Spencer), a former ally with Evelyn against the old regime, now runs the new resistance.  (She must have read that Thomas Jefferson said “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.”)

            So now we're set up for Tris and Four to try to overcome David's long reach and save Chicago from itself, as well as David's mind-erasing nerve gas.  At the end, we've barely averted one crisis, but we're set up for another, as now the cat's out of the bag that the people in Chicago aren't alone, after all, but are in fact under a continual sophisticated surveillance that  prevents them from having any privacy at all in their lives. (Yes, there might be a slight political agenda here.)

            Admittedly, the camera loves Shailene Woodley.  But even her purity of heart can't save this jumbled mess from crumbling in on itself.  It seems we're a long way from the original premise of the series, which was bascially that humans can't be neatly divided into groups, because individual personalities are more complicated than that.  OK, we'll try not to oversimplify the human spirit.

But somehow we've lost the thread of the plot line amid all the formula chase scenes, impossible escapes, and occasional gratuitous kissing.  Maybe Part Two will clear it up for the fans still interested in pursuing it, but for the rest of us, well, it may be time to be Allegiant to something with a little more charm.

 

1)                  When have you discovered that “the world out there” was not what they told you?

2)                  When have you experienced a leader who seemed sincere, but actually had a hidden agenda?

3)                  When have you felt betrayed by someone in your inner circle?

 

Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, DFW Film Critics Association