In the last Divergent movie, Insurgent, the brave heroine Tris cracked open a box and learned that her life—and the lives of everyone else in the walled-off city of Chicago—were part of a weird, grand experiment. The mysterious message in that mysterious box invited everyone to leave the walls behind and re-enter the big, broad world outside.
Yeah, about that. Not gonna happen. Not if Evelyn has her way.
Evelyn has taken charge after the city's strange faction system (wherein residents were split into tribal groups via, essentially, Myers-Briggs personality tests) finally crumbled. And while she sure didn't like living under someone's thumb before, now that she's the thumb it's not so bad. And, frankly, she'd like to keep everyone right where they are—in Chicago. After all, there's no telling what might really be out there! Mutant dinosaurs, maybe, or laser-toting werewolves. The point is that it could be dangerous. So to keep everyone safe, Evelyn may have to kill people to keep them from leaving.
Naturally, Tris—who has yet to find an authority figure she'll listen to—wants to break out. (One of these movies should really be called Insolent). Her perpetually angry lover Four, of course, still has her back, along with her good friends Christina and Tori. Slimy frienemy Peter has somehow squirreled his way into her clique of personality, too, and Four breaks Tris' backstabbing brother, Caleb, out of prison just in time for the breach-the-wall festivities. (Good timing, that; the guy was about to go on trial, and Evelyn's trials always seem to end with a bullet to the head.)
After much walking (and a disappointing lack of mutant dinosaurs), Tris and Co. come across a futuristic city, full of folks who've been watching Tris all her life, Truman Show-style. (Remember: She's a science experiment.) Now that Tris found their message and stopped by for a visit, the experiment is over—or so Tris would hope. These futuristic saviors will swoop into Chicago, rein in Evelyn and make everything better. Right?
Yeah, about that.
Tris (real name: Beatrice, like the messenger of salvation in Dante's Divine Comedy) means well. While reluctant to take on a leadership role in war-torn Chicago, she sincerely wants to help these folks. And when she comes across the colony of futuristic survivors, she's inclined to trust them, hoping her trust can lead to salvation not just for her, but everyone back home.
But when it becomes clear that such faith in her fellow man has been misplaced, Tris works equally hard to counteract the aftereffects, trying to save not only her friends, but the entire city of Chicago from a terrible fate.
Even though they spend way too much time kissing at inappropriate moments, Tris and Four clearly care about each other's well-being. And despite her brother's betrayal just one movie ago, Tris still saves Caleb from the angry masses. "It's what you do for family," she explains. Later, Caleb has a chance to return the favor.
Before injecting truth serum into a man standing trial, the interrogator says, "May the truth set you free" (evoking John 8:32). David, the guy who runs the futuristic outpost, calls Tris a "miracle."
When Tris and her cohorts arrive at the futuristic city, they're forced to take showers (to wash radiation and mutant dino dust off their bodies). To comply, Tris takes off her shirt (we see her bare back) and then her pants. (Her naked body is silhouetted.) Women's tops are sometimes low-cut. As mentioned, Tris and Four frequently kiss and clutch.
Four makes Rambo look like a well-adjusted accountant here, knocking out or outright killing dozens of people when the mood strikes. He and others engage in a host of hand-to-hand battles, sometimes ending with a knife to the gut or neck. (The fights are frenetic and jarring, but rarely bloody.) Regular gunfights push the casualty count even higher.
Evelyn is in the process of trying those who were part of the previous regime's reign of terror. Suspects are injected with truth serum (via a long needle), which forces them to be painfully honest. One such perp says he doesn't feel bad about the indiscriminate killing he did in service to Jeanine: "People are sheep," he says, "and when they resist, we slaughter them." He's shot in the back of the head (offscreen) as the crowd cheers. And we see another such execution take place as well. Verdicts seem to be determined by the hooting and hollering legion of onlookers, giving the whole atmosphere a bloodthirsty, gladiatorial feel.
Explosions rock tank-like vehicles, sending one tumbling (and injuring/burning the driver pretty badly). Children are yanked away from their parents by raiders. A flying ship careens and crashes into the ground. People are knocked out by tiny drones. A boy hits a drone with a rock.
It's worth noting that radiation has turned the soil and water red. "Great, now the sky's bleeding," Peter says when it begins to rain. And as a result of this anomaly, a number of people periodically look as if they're covered with diluted blood.
Crude or Profane Language
Four or five s-words. We also hear scattered interjections of "a--" (once), "d--n" (once) and "h---" (three or four times), along with two or three misuses of God's name and one use of "gadzooks."
Drug and Alcohol Content
I've mentioned the truth serum already. And a vaporous gas has the ability to wipe away memories.
Other Negative Elements
Several people lie for their own ends.
Allegiant, the third movie in The Divergent Series, is not too terrible when it comes to problematic content. In fact, it's actually a tad tidier than its two predecessors—a Hollywood rarity.
While Tris and Four frequently smooch and make googly eyes at each other, their sexual shenanigans aren't even hinted at (unlike in Insurgent). Also absent is the sheer terror of the tests Tris goes through in the first film, and the brutal virtual torture she endures in the second. Fists and knives and bullets aplenty do still fly, often finding their marks. But compared to the virtual-reality misery of the first two flicks, these "real-world" fights and deaths feel, by comparison, of little emotional consequence.
But therein lies the problem, too. While this movie is marginally cleaner than its predecessors in terms of content, it's unquestionably worse in terms of story.
Some of that is perhaps the result of the "Hobbitization" of the film. The folks at Lionsgate opted to stretch one book—in this case, Veronica Roth's Allegiant—into two movies. And that opens the door to what I'll call the cheap fast-food taco syndrome: too much filler and not enough meat.
Then there's the lack of common sense we see here. Take a critical scene in which Tris storms past David, a super-elite scientist who rules over his own tiny kingdom with an iron fist. "I'm taking your ship, and I'm not coming back," she says. David merely watches her walk past while saying in a tone of exasperation, "You can't fly." This seems a strange response, given the circumstances. If my daughter stormed past me, car keys in hand, saying she was going to steal my car and not come back, I think I'd do a bit more than just say, "You can't drive a stick."
It's a shame. Divergent ostensibly wants its viewers to use its dystopian construct as a channel toward considering their own personalities, celebrating the differences in one another and, perhaps most importantly, weighing the stubborn power of love, mercy and sacrifice (symbolized by the Abnegation faction).
But what we're actually left with is a jumbled collection of heavyweight special effects and flyweight characters carrying out a sci-fi war that seems more about showing off Four's fantastic nunchuck skills and Tris' defiant charm than making any kind of meaningful philosophic or spiritual stand.
Other Belief Systems
Readability Age Range
Shailene Woodley as Tris; Theo James as Four; Naomi Watts as Evelyn; Octavia Spencer as Johanna; Jeff Daniels as David; Zoë Kravitz as Christina; Ansel Elgort as Caleb; Miles Teller as Peter
Robert Schwentke ( )
March 18, 2016
July 12, 2016