BY ALEXA CHERRY
For the UAS Whalesong
The following review contains spoilers! Read at your own risk.
When I first came to UAS in 2012, I had little to no interest in the movie franchises following popular young adult-genre books. I had not read The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, The Maze Runner by James Dashner, or Divergent by Veronica Roth, and I didn’t want to. But then I fell in with Rachelle, the head of the UAS Baptist Campus Ministries (BCM) club, and it ended up being our “thing” to go and see the movies of each series as they came out. We’ve finished watching the entire Hunger Games series, and recently went to go catch the most recent installment in the Divergent film quartet. We thought it was going to be the final movie in the series, but apparently they decided to split the series into 4 movies so that they could make more money and wouldn’t veer too far away from the YA film norm of “final book divided into two movies.” Which, if you think about it, is kind of amusing – after all, Divergent is a series literally dedicated to being unique. Even so, I’d have to say that the 3rd movie is my favorite so far.
I assume that if you’re reading this review, you know enough about the Divergent series to have at least a mild interest in, and an awareness of, what’s happened in the previous movies. But I’ll put that assumption aside and fill you in, just in case. Imagine a post-apocalyptic Chicago where everyone gets divided into one of five factions: Abnegation (the selfless – sort of like the Amish), Amity (the peaceful – basically hippies), Candor (the honest – Law & Order but as people), Dauntless (the brave – juvenile delinquents/soldiers), and Erudite (the intellectual – the NERDS). However, there’s a sixth and secret faction known as the Divergent, which is people who don’t fit into any of the previously mentioned factions. These people are not allowed in Chicago Society, because (in a fairly transparent narrative move) they are Too Special and Disrupt the Status Quo. Naturally, the salty blonde female protagonist (Tris) is a Divergent, and so is her big buff Cheeto puff of a boyfriend (Four). At the end of the second movie, Insurgent, it’s revealed that the World Outside Chicago was using the city and the factions as an experiment, and that an ambiguous “they” are waiting for the inhabitants of Chicago to leave the world within the walls and go meet the people who have been running the experiment.
Allegiant, which I’ll reiterate is the third and newest movie, about Tris, Four, and their #squad defying the wishes of Four’s mother and clambering over the Great Wall of Chicago (you know, second only to the Great Wall of China) to see what’s in the outside world. This goes just about as well as you might expect; within thirty minutes of the opening, Tris and Four have successfully run unscathed through heavy gunfire in an open field, and the Asian woman (Tori Wu) who wasn’t doing anything even remotely dangerous is shot from behind. From what I understand, her character also dies in book canon, but the fact remains that the Divergent series takes place in an almost hilariously Caucasian-centric world – Tori’s death in Allegiant comes across as targeted whitewashing, rivaled only by the death of Boggs in Mockingjay: Part 2 when he dies and the camera immediately pans to the remaining, all-white members of the squad.
But that’s beside the point. Despite problematic casting choices (Tori’s death wouldn’t have stood out to me quite so much if she hadn’t been one of exactly two POC in Tris’s squad), Allegiant still remains my favorite of the Divergent film series for reasons that are not necessarily related to the plot. Let’s begin by discussing the world outside the wall, shall we?
Immediately outside Chicago, the world is a tortured wasteland that could not have been created by anything lesser than a large-scale nuclear war. In fact, it’s so messed up that even the rain is blood-red, which is notable for two reasons: one, none of the characters seemed to be particularly surprised by the blood rain, which would constitute a pretty big cause for alarm in the case of any normal person. Two, despite Chicago being roughly one mile away from their location, it’s made clear that the characters have never seen this blood rain before – making it, in my mind, a strangely selective weather pattern.
In case the “nuclear war” message wasn’t abundantly obvious from how there are only craters and a complete lack of green things to be seen for miles, the movie makes it clear by having Tris’s hyper-intelligent brother point at a puddle of red water in passing. “Look,” he says. I lean forward in my seat, captivated. Are we going to see some kind of eldritch nuclear crab? “That puddle. It looks radioactive.” Thanks, Caleb. …Thanks.
The second thing that it is crucially important you know about this movie is that at one point, the characters are confronted with an amazing sight. Gasps of awe are uttered, exclamations of delight – and one character, in complete seriousness, without any intimation of sarcasm at all, yelps: “Gadzooks!” Yes. Gadzooks. I don’t have anything else to say about that. I didn’t know how to react in theaters and I don’t know how to react now. Just… gadzooks.
My final favorite moment in this movie is the genuine 15-30 solid seconds of film time they dedicated to Four standing and seething in a decontamination shower. Yeah, you heard me. We get a solid half-minute of the main male protagonist brooding in the shower in the midst of a film where people are dying and politicians are intriguing all over the place. While I love this moment, it does speak to a bigger issue I had with the film, which is that they basically cut out Tris as the protagonist and replaced her with Four. I don’t like Tris very much, but there’s already a problem with a lack of strong female main characters in media, so I didn’t much care to see her be blind sided by her own franchise. They made up for it a little, though; Four’s character makes it repeatedly and abundantly clear that he just wants Tris back, and he never actively tries to steal the limelight from his boo (shower scene aside). In fact, Four mostly spends the movie trying to keep the gang alive and adopting everyone and everything he comes across. Oh, do you think I’m kidding? By the end of the movie, Four has picked up 3 robot children, one actual child, an angry post-apocalyptic ranger girl with a sweet braid, and the right-hand man of the main antagonist. It’s also made abundantly clear that Tris’s brother, Caleb, would die for him. You go, Four – but that’s a lot of paperwork to fill out.
For a movie with as big of a budget as Allegiant has, it seems like a shame that it’s so cheesy – almost unapologetically so. During one scene, the angle and lighting made it abundantly obvious that one of Tris’s tattoos was fake. Not just Hollywood spray-paint fake, but like… an actual stick-on fake tattoo that you put on with a wet washcloth. Despite the movie being named Allegiant, the faction that calls itself Allegiant in the film is barely present as even a concept. Tris has mad lens flare in her eyes, and in hers only. Even the tertiary antagonist (yes, there are technically three of them) is cheesy – by the time he gets around to betraying the protagonists, I suppose I am expected to be Shocked and Appalled. Those are difficult emotions to feel when he basically spends the entire movie rubbing his hands together and cackling madly.
Finally, whoever designed the sets had an unhealthy fixation with the color orange – the accent colors in the fancy future cities are orange, the wasteland is orange, the blood rain that falls from the sky is blood orange, and the toxic poison gas that features later in the film is also orange. At some point, there might even have been someone eating an actual orange, but I probably missed it in the sea of other orange things.
But these complaints are not really complaints – they’re just observations. The Divergent series has a cheesy story and an enormous budget. I would really recommend Allegiant if you’ve seen the previous two and you’re looking for a good time. Four does even more heavy breathing and jaw-clenching, and Tris’s haircut is awful but at least she’s chilled out a lot. The saga continues – and I can only hope and pray that someone says “gadzooks” again in the final installment.