Film review: Allegiant – A slick and exciting adventure

I think it’s probably fair to say that the Young Adult genre has become over-saturated due to the phenomenal success of The Hunger Games. Since coming to a slightly underwhelming conclusion last year, many new franchises have its crown firmly in their sights.

The Maze Runner was a muddled first outing with the second, Scorch Trials faring much better and the same can be said for the Divergent series. The first film was at times, an incomprehensible mess, while its follow-up, Insurgent was a thrilling if CGI-heavy and overlong affair.

Allegiant marks the first of two films ending the moderately successful series, with Ascendant being released in June next year. But does this split conclusion harm it as much as it did for Mockingjay?

Allegiant picks up immediately after the end of its predecessor with Tris Prior (Shailene Woodley), her lover Four (Theo James) and a group of friends leaving their once safe-haven of a post-apocalyptic Chicago in order to find a world beyond the wall, populated by others once thought forgotten. What ensues will change their lives forever.

The cast is on form in this instalment with Woodley growing into the role perfectly. It’s true that she’s no Jennifer Lawrence, and many would see her as a budget Katniss Everdeen, but she plays the character with a confidence only matched by her rival in the genre. Theo James gets a much larger role here too, and this is welcome, given his pivotal part in the novels.

Elsewhere, Naomi Watts does her best Julianne Moore impression and clearly watched the latter’s performance in Mockingjay to prepare for an incredibly similar role. Jeff Daniels is a nice addition as the Bureau of Genetic Welfare’s leader, David, though again, his acting prowess feels a little wasted.

Robert Schwentke directs the film with a unique colour palate and visual flair. Scenes “beyond the wall” are stunning and glisten with a red lick of paint, a welcome change from the staid, grey and blue many directors continue to use in blockbusters. It’s very Total Recall-esque in these sequences and better for it.

Unfortunately, once the plucky group of teens leave the Martian-like “Fringe” behind, the CGI kicks up a gear. This is where things start to unravel somewhat and Schwentke throws effect upon effect at the screen until there is hardly any realism left. On the whole, they’re pretty decent, but there are a few lapses that stop the film dead in its tracks, especially towards the cliff-hanger conclusion.

It’s also far too long. Much like Mockingjay, splitting the final book was an exercise in cash-grabbing rather than giving fans of the novels what they want. At over two hours in length, Allegiant drags in places and means the final film, as a whole, will be around four hours.

Nevertheless, there is much to enjoy here. The story for newcomers is incomprehensible and some of the dialogue is downright laughable, but for those of us continuing the saga, it’s an epic adventure with some cracking visuals, good acting and an intriguing plot – despite a few convoluted moments.

Overall, Allegiant is a film hampered by its timing. The similarities to The Hunger Games are obvious throughout, from exactly the same dialogue in certain scenes, to similar sets and similar casting decisions. But, if you can forget all that, it’s a fun, if overlong ride.

Allegiant rating: 6.5/10