The Divergent Series Allegiant: Sleepwalking through cinema

If you’ve ever wanted to take a long nap while watching a movie in theaters, there’s likely no better film to snooze through this year than “The Divergent Series: Allegiant.”

No one will blame you, least of all the film’s cast and crew, who sleepwalk their way through “Allegiant,” the third in the teen dystopian film franchise based on the books by Veronica Roth.

Based on the first half of the final book in the trilogy, the latest movie finds rebellious teen Tris leading a small band of friends outside the walled compound of what used to be Chicago. Their escape and journey beyond the walls they’ve always known should be compelling cinema, but nothing ever comes together in director Robert Schwentke’s lackluster film.

There’s no sense of urgency in “Allegiant,” an all too damning indictment of a series well past the point of usefulness to a broad audience.

Shailene Woodley does a passable job as Tris, though her character is relegated to the background for much of the film leaving Woodley with almost nothing to do.

Much of the focus in her stead is given to Theo James, who plays Tris’ love interest Four. James gives a very mechanical, almost robotic performance — and in a film littered with miscues – focusing much of “Allegiant” on James proves to be the movie’s biggest mistake.

Across the board, lines of dialogue are delivered in the most mundane ways imaginable, where even Oscar winner Octavia Spencer cannot muster the desire to rise above the bland material on the script page. As a result, her performance as resistance leader Johanna screams of a woman who simply doesn’t want to be there and viewers can immediately read it on Spencer’s face.

The lone newcomer to the “Divergent” franchise, Jeff Daniels gives the villainous leader David very little character beyond the script and is only mildly effective as a foil for either Tris or Four. Daniels has played better villains in other films, though the material he’s given here is largely to blame.

Perhaps the most effective performance in the entire film comes from Miles Teller, who thrives in any role where he is allowed to be a smarmy jerk to everyone he encounters.

Teller’s Peter reads as wholly unlikeable throughout all three “Divergent” films, but it takes a true talent of Teller’s caliber to beautifully and seamlessly bend back and forth between good and evil that viewers never truly know Peter’s intentions.

Visually, it’s easy to see where most of the film’s $110 million budget went given the extraordinarily high use of CGI in “Allegiant” compared to the first two installments in the film franchise.

While the decent action scenes make the most use out of the film’s CGI-heavy production value, there’s simply not enough dynamic moments in “Allegiant” to justify the cost of making the film nor the time audiences spend watching the film.

Lionsgate, the studio behind both the “Divergent” and “The Hunger Games” films, largely destroyed any potential for success by splitting the final book into two parts.

In rushing to get “Allegiant” in theaters one year after the previous entry “Insurgent,” the script penned by Adam Cooper, Bill Collage and Noah Oppenheim is lacks any oomph and lazily stumbles from scene to scene. Only Teller is able to lift the material to new heights.

Scenes of dialogue often are poorly shot. Schwentke’s near-universal use of green screens and computer generated imagery to develop the film’s background stand out like a sore thumb in the film’s tediously slow moments.

Ardent fans of the “Divergent” series, be it the book or film version, will largely be satisfied with how true “Allegiant” is to the source material. The decision to split the third book into two films, however, leaves “Allegiant” with too little action or drama to keep viewers actively engaged for the 110-minute running time.

Average moviegoers deciding whether or not to catch “Allegiant” in theaters would probably be better off waiting until the film’s release on DVD and streaming later this year.

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