The moral universe of “Allegiant” is insane. The film picks up where “Insurgent” left off. The “Factionless,” led by Four’s (Theo James, “You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger”) estranged mom Evelyn (Naomi Watts, “While We’re Young”) have miraculously succeeded in their rebellion against the powerful technology-wielding central government of post-apocalyptic Chicago (yes, the Divergent series is set in Chicago). But Tris (Shailene Woodley, “The Fault in Our Stars”) believes there’s humanity outside the walls of the city, on the word of her martyred mother. So far, things make sense. Now that the power-hungry psychos have been deposed, we’re going to install a central government that doesn’t divide people based on categories so lurid and inane they could only come from a childish dystopian thriller, right? And next, we’ll send a small envoy outside the wall, because blindly remaining inside a city and forbidding everyone to leave for no apparent reason is crazy, right?
Whatever. The trials for the dethroned Chicago government thugs begin. The trials turn into executions. The Factionless have done away with the defunct Faction system of government, and without neat little categories, Chicago has fallen under mob rule. Johanna (“Octavia Spencer, “Snowpiercer”), former leader of the “Amity” faction (read: the obvious good guys), sees everything going to hell and wants to reinstate the Factions so people stop killing each other. She takes charge of the dissenters and names them the “Allegiant,” as in, allegiant to the old system of government. So now, Evelyn and Johanna sit down at a table with a handful of their top advisors, including Tris, de-facto leader of the former “Dauntless” — despite being cute, sixteen and apparently well-shampooed — and they all discuss how they can preserve the infrastructure, prosperity and humanity of their tiny nation, right? Instead, they all pull out guns. Including the former members of Amity.
Tris, our hero, cares deeply about the people of Chicago. So she speaks up and tells everyone they’re being stupid, right? She tells her boyfriend’s mom that violence isn’t cool, right? Nah, she’s out. She escapes the walls of Chicago with Four, her brother Caleb (Ansel Elgort, “The Fault in Our Stars”) and a couple other eye-candy party members. They’re greeted outside by the Real Government, who tell us that Chicago is a big genetic experiment and that everyone in dystopian Chicago is merely a specimen in a hyper-sophisticated breeding terrarium overseen by the Bureau. Apparently, human genetic modification caused a nuclear apocalypse and Chicago is an attempt to get the human genome to revert to an au naturel state. A minute of nonsensical scientific justification later and we’re mostly cool with this status quo. David (Jeff Daniels, “The Newsroom”), the head of the Bureau, tells Tris that the “Divergent” (i.e. herself) are everything the experiment has been looking for. Tris is upset that everyone she’s ever known is currently killing each other, and asks David to intervene in the experiment. David, the biggest liar who’s ever lied, says, sure, honey, just come with me and I'll talk to the Council, who are the Real Bosses.
Meanwhile, the Bureau has Four suited up, skimming the post-apocalyptic hellscape for settlements. He descends upon one with a hundred other Bureau meatheads and witnesses the Bureau taking children back to its not-irradiated tech castle. They leave the parents of the kids to die out there, or in some cases, shoot the parents themselves. Then they wipe the kids’ memories. They seem to have the technology to completely de-irradiate people, but they rip the families apart anyway. No explanation. This isn’t one of those moral cliffhangers that turns out to have a twisty-but-reasonable explanation. It’s just insane. They fly around saving starving, irradiated kids whose families have no weapons that could possibly pierce their personal force fields, and yet they tote giant guns and screw the parents for no identifiable reason. This is top-shelf nonsense.
So Tris goes to the Council, finds out that David is a liar, and hightails it back to Chicago to save her people. Four has already tried this, but he was remarkably ineffective, so his rebel-turned-dictator mom locked him up and now Tris has to save him in addition to stopping the war. Only now, David wants to mass-wipe the memories of everyone in Chicago with the same memory-wipe gas he’s been using on the settlement children. Why is he suddenly cool with intervening in his own experiment to save lives? No idea, but if there were ever a good reason to mind-control an entire city, it would be to stop ongoing genocide. Tris isn’t cool with this, however. She saves Four and they blow up the gas machine. The kids save the day, except for that genocidal war that’s still going on. But we’ll get to that in the next movie.
The last moral lesson in this movie is that violence solves problems and nuclear unmanned drones are an awesome idea. Tris’s crew puts a bomb in an unmanned craft, sets it on autopilot and sends it back to the Bureau. The last scene in the movie is the crown jewel of unintentional Hollywood irony. Tris and her homies watch their drone-nuke blast the Bureau to smithereens from the edge of Chicago, while Tris’s overdubbed voice explains the importance of working together and eschewing constructs that divide and hurt people.
I mostly blame the main writer, Noah Oppenheim (“The Maze Runner”), but frankly, no one involved with this movie has any excuse. This whole franchise is The Hunger Games on a bad acid trip. My IQ has dropped twenty points and my soul needs a shower. Let Chicago burn. I’m done.