Wednesday, March 16, 2016

"The Divergent Series: Allegiant": So Stupid It's Funny

In Theaters on March 18, 2016

Allegiant is the best film of The Divergent Series.  I had a great time watching it.  These two statements do not mean that Allegiant is a good film.  Far from it, Allegiant is a terrible film, in many ways just as terrible as its predecessors with only mild improvements to differentiate it at all and make it the best on a pure technical level.  So how can I claim to have had so much fun?  Because The Divergent Series has officially become so stupid that it is hilarious.

Let’s start by giving credit where credit is due.  Allegiant improves upon its franchise forbearers by FINALLY moving out of the concrete gray of post-apocalyptic Chicago and offering something interesting to look at.  Granted, this takes the form of a monochromatically orange wasteland and a pristine white future city, but hey, I’ll take what I can get.  Also, I have to give props to this film for having a complete three act structure, since this is technically an adaptation of only the first half of the last Divergent book.  I can’t speak to whether the book is awkwardly structured enough to make this breaking point easy, or even if the remainder of the book is weighty enough to justify another movie, but for right now this is a film with a solid beginning, middle, and end, which is better than we’ve come to expect from penultimate young adult adaptations as of late.

But the bad is still just as bad as ever.  The characters are shallow and move around at the convenience of the plot rather than by any sort of motivation, which is unfortunate considering how much effort Shailene Woodley and newcomer Jeff Daniels try to play these roles straight.  The plot itself is a mess of post-apocalyptic tropes that don’t even coherently hold up as a high-school clique allegory as they once presumed to in earlier films.  There’s no subtext, no point to the story that would make the lack of character depth forgivable.  It's just a mess of twists that are asininely predictable, mainly because the film telegraphs them so far in advance that it's amazing the characters don't break the fourth wall over how obvious their coming trials are.

What made the viewing experience worth it, at least for me, was how hilariously inept the proceedings have become.  The script is at times laughably dumb, with such precious lines as “This hole looks radioactive.” (How does something look radioactive?)  Simple points of story construction break down under simple logic, like how a set of characters learn to fly an air vehicle in midflight without having seen one before a few days ago.  Thankfully, one cast member can’t even take this shlock seriously anymore; Miles Teller takes every moment he can to crack wise and mug for the camera, and I’m pretty sure that some of his cracks weren’t in the script.  But those who I must applaud for taking the film way too seriously are the extras, who have some of the most ridiculous energy I have ever seen from their kind, and their riotous exclamations, which have been edited to be prominently audible, are to die for.  If they aren’t named in the credits, I can guarantee that they are worth watching and listening to, way more so than the main cast.

This idiocy is not worth the price of admission, nor is it worth it to catch up with the previous films in order to comprehend the plot of this one.  I would likely feel much sourer about the film if I hadn’t attended a free advance screening.  However, while it’s unclear whether Allegiant is self-aware of its comedy or if the adaptation is starting to break down under the weight of its own ridiculousness, this is a film that ended up entertaining me, if only as a way to practice creating my own personal mental RiffTrax.

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