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Faith Reels: ‘Allegiant’ … finally, the truth

Faith Reels: ‘Allegiant’ … finally, the truth

by Bonnie Anderson and Dan Webster


It has been panned by critics. Readers of Veronica Roth’s ‘Divergent’ trilogy complained. ‘Allegiant’ almost finishes the screen adaptation of the book series. Key word there is “adaptation.” That’s what Hollywood does. It adapts books to an entirely different medium. Sometimes a lot is lost in adaptation. And sometimes, as in this case, producers are making a fourth film, ‘Ascendant’ due out June, 2017. (edited see note below)


But the point of ‘Allegiant’ is to reveal the world beyond the wall surrounding a nuclear war-ravaged Chicago. And it does.


When we wrote last year about ‘Insurgent,’ the second installment in the trilogy, we called it a “violent Gospel story.” It’s all about who has power, what is power, who’s in AND out, who’s marginalized, and the value of human life.


In ‘Allegiant’ we discover who’s behind the faction-based system in Chicago designed to keep a balanced society. Tris (Shailene Woodley) and Four (Theo James) are now clearly renegades who’ve fallen in love but are tested by what and who they find outside the wall.


One of those puppeteer leaders is courting Tris for her support. When she decides on another direction he tells her, “You want change without sacrifice and peace without struggle.” That was reminiscent of words from Frederick Douglass: “Power concedes nothing without demand. It never did and it never will.”


This series questions authority and challenges the ultimate authority. Its audience is young people who are highly suspicious of institutions. The first two installments were much more popular. Maybe folks are waiting to watch it on demand or DVD since ‘Allegiant’ is only available in 2D.


Whatever those dynamics, this series proves young people find dystopian movies interesting. Not much hope in films like ‘Hunger Games,’ ‘Snowpiercer’ and ‘Divergent.’ Hollywood doesn’t make movies unless they know there’s an audience. Young people are the target audience here.


Maybe that should tell people of faith that the Gospel message of hope and the unlikely power of love over death should be shared with young people.  If we live lives reflecting that we truly are Easter people, then young people might believe us.


*Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this review was not clear about the number of films in the ‘Divergent’ series. We are grateful to our readers who commented on this inaccuracy and the authors have made their correction.



Bonnie Anderson is a very active lay leader in her parish, diocese and in the wider Episcopal Church. She is an experienced community organizer and lives in suburban Detroit. Dan Webster is an Episcopal priest in Baltimore, Maryland and a former broadcast news executive. But don’t expect only east coast urban perspectives here. As it turns out, they both grew up in Southern California.  They blog about films and faith at Faith Reels


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Frederick Quinn

Dan and Bonnie–You both are clear, thoughtful writers who have been through the refiner’s fire so comment with considerable wisdom on wider issues of religion and society.
Why not write some additional reflections of issues you both observe in the wider Anglican world. The films are a good point of departure, but I know from hearing you both speak, that you have thoughtful Christian commentaries on other issues as well. Go for it!

Charlotte Weaver-Gelzer

I’d say the reviewer has not done due diligence on the main question he’s asking. Why DO people (young, or older than ‘young’) like dystopian literature and dystopian film? Surely NOT because they are looking for “hope and” evidence of “the unlikely power of love over death.” Next time, instead of imagining Christians offering “hope” and “unlikely” witness outside the frame of reference, imagine being your form of Christian while inside the limits of the movie. Tell us about that. The other is like saying, “After the movie, let’s go have a muffin.”

Helen Kromm

I don’t know that the reviewer can answer that question effectively. I suspect the main reason many young people like these films is simply because they are entertaining. I also suspect the answer the reviewer does provide is certainly accurate: “This series questions authority and challenges the ultimate authority. Its audience is young people who are highly suspicious of institutions.”

That’s a conclusion I wouldn’t argue with.

Dan Webster

Thank you for your comments. Yes, we know Hollywood is making a fourth film set to release in June, 2017. The “adaptation” part of our commentary left that door open, or so we thought. Apologies if that was unclear. As for the conclusion of hope, that’s what we see in the Gospel, not in the dystopian films. That conclusion is clear.

David Allen

I’m wondering if the Faith Reels authors realize that this is not the final movie? Just as with the Hunger Games trilogy, the final book Allegiant is being adapted for two movies. The final movie, Ascendant, is scheduled for release in JUN 2017.

Perhaps the movie screenplay for Allegiant takes so many artistic diversions from the book that the authors here didn’t realize that the story isn’t over.

Helen Kromm

I wondered the same thing. I don’t think they realize that. Their conclusion about a message of hope, or lack thereof, is premature. I don’t see how you arrive at that conclusion until the series is completed.

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