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