It now being an established fact that these “Divergent” movies are a terrible, hackwork embarrassment to science fiction, YA films and action cinema in general, the time has come to fret over their real impact.
Have they broken Shailene Woodley?
A young actress of limitless potential and an almost superhuman empathy, we could see great things in her thanks to films such as “The Descendants” and “The Spectacular Now,” even “The Fault in Our Stars.”
But this “Divergent” series has turned her apathetic, tuned-out and in desperate need of detox.
Watch her in “Allegiant – Part 1,” the next to last drawn out installment in this cut-and-paste sci-fi sampler series, and tell me she’s not in need of rehab, detox or some serious career soul-searching. She can’t even fake concern about the events her character’s hurled into, much less urgency. She can’t turn up the heat for lukewarm co-star Theo James, who at least handles the fights as if he cares. She can barely hide the eyerolls at this or that “twist” in what novelist Veronica Roth had the cheek to call a “plot.”
“It doesn’t have to be this way,” one character declares, and everybody seems to be thinking, start to finish.
In the story, we’re post “factions” now. Supposedly. Those inane categories the beautiful young adults are sorted into — Candor, Amity, Erudite, Dauntless, etc — are gone. Jeanine (Kate Winslet) has been deposed. Evelyn (Naomi Watts) and Johanna (Octavia Spencer) seem to have things under control in the ruins of Chicago.
But there’s a world “beyond the wall,” and as the survivors in the city plunge into reprisals –show trials and summary executions — Tris (Woodley) and 4 (James) drag the treacherous Caleb and Peter and the true blue Maggie Q (as Tori) and Zoe Kravitz (Christina) into an escape.
The world’s a toxic moonscape, but there’s hope in the distance — a futuristic paradise (“Gadzooks!”) run by the Bureau of Genetic Welfare.
So we have The Council which runs The Bureau sorting out The Pure from The Damaged. Because if there’s one thing this inane series needs, it’s more exposition.
Jeff Daniels is the guy in charge of The Bureau, sputtering out more pages of exposition — human history, back-story, their “mission” — to Tris and Co.
Something about that guy, though…
This sort of movie really should be about more than meekly obvious names for human traits separated into tribes, the future tech, the dystopian landscape, the fashions, the hair styles.
But there isn’t a line that lands, a scene that sticks with you, an emotion you feel or a moment this movie drags you to the edge of your seat.
James puts the effort in, Miles Teller still tries for his laughs. But thanks to the dull scripts and the efforts of director Robert Schwentke (“RED:), Ansel Elgort has, like Woodley, gotten progressively worse. And more inept at hiding that he’s disconnected from all this.
Shailene’s bored, and we’re all bored with her. Get it over with already.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense violence and action, thematic elements, and some partial nudity
Cast: Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Naomi Watts, Octavia Spencer, Jeff Daniels, Zoe Kravitz
Credits: Directed by Robert Schwentke, script by Noah Oppenheim, Adam Cooper, Bill Collage, based on the Veronica Roth books. A Summit release.
Running time: 2:01