Main Cast: Shailene Woodley, Theo James
Director: Robert Schwentke
We arrived in Cleveland without incident and DeWolfe, the famous impresario met us at the arena where I suffered a bit of a disappointment. Apparently, due to a scheduling error, I would not be appearing on the main stage with the candidate, but rather on a side stage in the coffee break area of the exhibition hall. While Leah began a strongly worded letter to the organizers of the affair for their shoddy treatment of such a living entertainment legend as yours truly, I decided to make the best of it and put on a lovely little red, white, and blue star spangled frock, fixed my hair, applied my puce lipstick and periwinkle eye shadow, strapped on my Maryjanes with the platinum-titanium taps and hit the boards with my first number, a little song from Sondheim’s success d’estime- Anyone Can Whistle.
Doing a triple time step, I broke through the silver Mylar rain curtain singing ‘There won’t be trumpets’ into the cordless microphone. Rather than the rapturous applause I was expecting, I was met with stunned silence. I took a beat, decided my best course was to continue, and sang out ‘There are no trumpets, who needs trumpets?’ The conventioneers let out some sort of communal shriek and rushed the stage. I was aghast. I’m used to adoring fans, but not feral hordes. I quickly leapt off the back of the stage and crawled under the banquet table with all the little pastries on it (cleverly grabbing a brioche on the way as I had not yet had breakfast myself) in order to get away from the mob. I also wisely jettisoned my easily recognizable dress and fashioned myself an impromptu little A-line frock out of a spare tablecloth and a couple of convention swag bags. As the delegates were racing completely the wrong way, I cautiously crept out the back of the arena. DeWolfe and Leah found me crouched behind a dumpster behind the loading dock and were able to spirit me to safety in a spare stage black gondola. Apparently my brief performance had become the talk of the convention hall when some in the crowd had heard trumpets as trump pence and somehow this made them a bit upset, I can’t imagine why. And my diction is impeccable so I think the conventioneers needed their miracle ears checked. Their average age was definitely older than my ever youthful 39.
DeWolfe suggested that we make a quiet exit from town before there could be any further misunderstandings and that he would more than make it up to me with a future booking. So my entourage packed up bag and baggage and headed back towards California. I was feeling a bit shook up so I decided to settle in with a film that could act as divertissement and comfort food. Looking through my selections, I decided upon Allegiant, the most recent film in the continuing Divergent series that was released earlier this year to something less than critical acclaim. I must confess that I rather enjoyed the first film in the series which had a decent cast, an easily understood point of view, and a solid through line with young Tris (Shailene Woodley) discovering her inner strength and claiming her destiny. I am partial to adventure films with strong female characters as they are something of a rarity. Alas, like so many series of films based on young adult dystopian novels, the promising first film, which resolves the story, this initial film was followed by a sequel, Insurgent, which I found dull and somewhat pointless. However, being a glutton for punishment, I decided to carry on and plunge into the third film (which has a wide open ending for a fourth and a fifth… as long as the cast is contracted and profits exceed expenses).
Allegiant picks up where Insurgent left off. Tris, her inamorata Four (Theo James), her brother Caleb (Ansel Elgort) and various other hangers on have exposed the truth to the residents of far future Chicago. They are not alone in the world. There is civilization outside the border wall who have been manipulating them all for their own purposes. Tris and the others find it wise to make a break for it, scale the wall and soon find themselves amongst the outsiders who live in a cool postmodern spaceport type place full of impressive electronics. The outsiders are led by David (Jeff Daniels) at his smarmiest so we know within minutes of his first appearance that he’s up to no good and that things are not likely to go well for Tris and her companions. Needless to say, there are dangers, narrow escapes, karmic come uppances and Tris once again saves the day and rides to the rescue of the survivors of the internecine faction struggles of downtown Chicago. I won’t be more specific than that as not to be accused of spoiling the film but honestly, it kept putting me to sleep so there are some times as to when I would suddenly wake up and have absolutely no idea what was going on.
Allegiant continues the rather interesting physical look of a decaying Chicago (despite being filmed mainly in Atlanta) and does a good job contrasting that with the high tech headquarters of those living on the outside. Alec Hammond’s production design utilizes a lot of computer imagery and plays with our visual expectations in interesting ways. I also liked Joseph Trapanese’s score. What doesn’t work is the rather pedestrian script (credited to three writers, never a good sign) which has our heroes speaking at each other rather than to each other most of the time and which telegraphs all of its developments well in advance. There’s not a single major surprise in the film.
Young Shailene Woodley continues to impress and does a reasonable job despite the limitations of the script and the rather perfunctory direction by Robert Schwentke (who also directed the incomprehensible Insurgent – if the series had stayed in the hands of original director Neil Burger it might have worked quite a bit better). She and Jeff Daniels, armed with a supercilious sneer throughout, have the largest parts but aren’t necessarily the most interesting characters. The film is chock full of nifty little supporting turns which are more interesting but aren’t given the time to breathe and develop fully realized humans. Allegiant wastes such gifted performers as Octavia Spencer, Daniel Dae Kim, Ray Stevenson and Xander Berkely in various thankless roles. The continuing characters of Tris’s posse such as Miles Teller’s Peter, Zoe Kravitz’s Christina and Maggie Q’s Tori have little to do other than to provide plot points which have no real emotional depth.
If you enjoyed the first two films, you’ll likely enjoy Allegiant too, but I wouldn’t pick it up otherwise. And if you haven’t seen the first two films, you’ll be so confused by the whole thing that you’ll turn it off after twenty minutes and find a nice book to read.
Truth serum. Kangaroo courts. Decontamination procedures. Surveillance equipment. Gratuitous drone combat. City gassing. Deliberate aircraft crash.
photo by Aichas