Curse you, Harry Potter.
There was a time when movie studios were happy just to make movie trilogies. But since the final book in the Harry Potter series was split to make two “Deathly Hallows” movies, other studios have jumped on that approach as a way to make their franchise go one film further.
And two films instead of one means more money.
It happened with “Twilight,” “The Hunger Games” and now “The Divergent Series.” What should have been the third, and final, movie in the series, “Allegiant” has been divided into two sections. As with previous splits, the first production in the pair comes across as feeling like all it’s doing is treading water until the real finale comes along.
The treading in “Allegiant” has Tris (Shailene Woodley) and her merry band of troublemakers leaving the confines of their city to explore what exists beyond the walls. They find another city – magnificently built on the site of O’Hare Airport – run by the smarmy David (Jeff Daniels). He’s been monitoring Tris and the others in her city as an experiment to find the perfect people.
There are a lot of discussions about genetics to help fill the time. The bigger problem is that the franchise is moving further and further away from the elements that made the first film passable.
The theme of being your own person was strong in the initial movie because of how the world was structured. Everyone was put into a category and forced to live that life. It set up an interesting social situation.
Add to that the budding love affair between Tris and Four (Theo James) that gave the movie a nice cushion of humanity. Those elements made the movie franchise interesting.
Those elements have been replaced by all of the claptrap chatter about genetics and the two lovers being split. Both come across as even bigger problems because the movie’s pace has been slowed to a crawl.
Nothing seems to be able to cut through the funk. A battle back home between factions led by Evelyn (Naomi Watts) and Johanna (Octavia Spencer) is forced, especially with the rapid change of direction by both leaders. Their war is little more than filler to make the movie long enough to qualify as a feature film.
Woodley continues to show her strength, but even she looks bored with how slowly things are unfolding. Too much of her time is spent in deep philosophical discussions with David, the ultimate in passive/aggressive leaders.
Zoe Kravitz is given far to little to do and Miles Teller too much. Kravitz brings a spunkiness to the film that Tris provided in previous tales. But that’s only seen in a scant number of scenes. Teller’s bad guy performance has become so melodramatic that it’s a surprise he hasn’t tied Tris to the railroad tracks.
Even the big finale comes across as being the best of a long list of bad ideas.
All of this is a product of the decision to extend this franchise into a fourth film. That can work if the material is strong enough, such as in the “Harry Potter” series. But “Allegiant” suffers the same problems as the expanded “Twilight” and “Hunger Games” movies: Stretching thin material only exposes the flaws.
The Divergent Series: Allegiant
Cast: Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Naomi Watts, Octavia Spencer
Director: Robert Schwentke
Rated PG-13 (violence, partial nudity)
Opens: Friday, March 18