Tris has suffered and sacrificed in the face of her city's adversity. Yet in her own biggest hour of need, she surprisingly isn't passionately engaged to the outside world or its lasting ramifications.
Imperfect human nature resorts to chaos. Chicago's remaining leaders Evelyn (Naomi Watts) and Johanna (Octavia Spencer) wage war to protect the remaining populations' best interests left behind by Jeanine's violent ruling. Tris and her co. venture outside their city's barricades and discover the truth behind the faction system: the Bureau of Genetic Welfare uses pure test subjects like Tris to correct human weaknesses and fortify a perfect genetic disposition. All is not what it seems in this "safe haven".
Unlike the first two series where Tris was challenged to find out what it means to be Divergent, and how it's not a curse but a blessing, here she simply lacks drive. More incited wars don't outrage her. A new nemesis' dubious priorities fail to illicit alarm. She seems more inviting to settle down outside of Chicago without real motivation to do so. Shailene Woodley doesn't do a bad job, but she is capable of giving a deeper performance. Considering the premise hinders on her to look beyond what society expects, the film's fault is Tris not conquering anything memorable.
While Tris isn't the starring player in this third installment, her counterparts are. Four is the one responsible for all the action and emotional turmoil this time around. In recognizing his home Chicago is falling apart and the Bureau is not what it seems, he goes on his own quest without Tris (but for her) and it's still interesting. Theo James has natural charisma, and he turns a typical muscle head/love interest into a vulnerable and badass male lead.
In addition to Four's solo mission, family, friends, and rivals gain more layers too. Though Tris isn't a force of nature like she was in the past, her friends have room to seek redemption, deepen friendships, or lead a revolution even if it's not the best choice.
Allegiant isn't all bad. Even in favoring the films much more than the books, major plot threads were mashed together with successful pacing. The script may not satisfy book loyalists. But I was surprised by how much original they kept in, even though they weren't adapted linearly to the book. The film seamlessly splits between two main characters and locations, which keeps the story refreshing. Like its predecessors, the production design remains inventive. Utilizing special effects to tie the futuristic Chicago to its deserted outer surroundings, the film is still eye-catching.
As much as I liked Allegiant, it does suffer the same fate of many young adult first-parters. One book provides enough material for one adaptation. But the studios are obsessed with making a cash grab and split a book into two parts. Like The Hunger Games' Mockingjay, they want to lure audiences to wait for the "good or better stuff". It would be best if studios utilized all of what a book offers and throw it full force into one worthy epic conclusion.
Ultimately, we have one more movie to go. Ascendant is completely unknown yet exciting territory. Hopefully the series rises victoriously over the finishing line, not limping across it.