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I think I’m getting the hang of these young adult dystopian franchises. After sitting through four Hunger Games movies, and three of the eventual four Divergent films, and two of the Maze Runner movies, I detect an unmistakable pattern.
First, our young adult heroes or heroines find themselves stuck in an intolerable system, a system that denies their individuality and deprives them of their freedom to do or be whatever they want to do or be.
Next, they do all they can to overthrow this oppressive system and escape into a new reality. But then, once they break through into this new reality, it turns out this new reality is just another system that oppresses and restricts their freedom. So they have to fight like hell to escape this new oppression. It’s like you can’t trust anybody in power anywhere. What’s a young adult to do?
Well, conveniently, there’s always the teenage libido to help them through the roughest patches. Now maybe that’s an unfair characterization. These heroes certainly see themselves in love – not lust – and all things considered, they are remarkably chaste affairs, so who am I to question them? It’s just that their characters are so thin that it’s hard to see them as emotionally rounded individuals, that’s all.
Which brings us to “The Divergent Series: Allegiant.” (Yes, that’s the clunky official title) The promising actress Shailene Woodley is back as Triss, as is Theo James who plays her love interest, Four.
After “The Divergent Series: Insurgent,” in which Triss, Four, and others helped overthrow the evil Kate Winslet character, our heroes find themselves chafing under the heavy-handed power of the new, revolutionary leader played by Naomi Watts. She manages to be as oppressive as the old regime. And to make matters worse, she’s also Four’s mother. Young adults just can’t catch a break, can they?
Like teenagers everywhere, Triss, Four, and a handful of others decide to strike out on their own. They’re determined to scale the imposing and electrified wall that keeps the entire society imprisoned, and to see for themselves what’s on the horizon. What they find is not what they expected.
How does this third installment stack up to the other Divergent films? I’d say it’s par for the course.
The series’ original and initially compelling premise of a futuristic world that could be designed to capitalize on its citizens’ natural abilities and inclinations by dividing society into various cooperative factions (farmers, military types, peace-loving hippies, truth-tellers, intellectuals), has mostly fallen by the wayside.
In its place is a relatively simplistic conflict between the good guys and the bad guys. The series still has pretensions of sociological insight but it’s more or less devolved into a kind of lame action-adventure movie with the occasional smooch between our hero and heroine. (Minor spoiler alert: the “L” word is actually uttered.)