You Should Be Reading: The Divergent Series – Allegiant (Part 1)

“There are so many ways to be brave in this world. Sometimes bravery involves laying down your life for something bigger than yourself, or for someone else. Sometimes it involves giving up everything you have ever known, or everyone you have ever loved, for the sake of something greater. But sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes it is nothing more than gritting your teeth through pain, and the work of every day, the slow walk toward a better life. That is the sort of bravery I must have now.”

Rating:

Based on the final book in Veronica Roth‘s young adult dystopian Divergent trilogy, originally published in 2013, The Divergent Series: Allegiant is the third instalment in The Divergent Series of films and is the first in a two-part adaptation of the final book.

Set in the aftermath of Insurgent, Allegiant sees Tris and Four venture outside of the walls that enclose the only world they know, a futuristic Chicago in ruins, for the first time ever. Once outside, old discoveries are quickly rendered meaningless with the revelation of shocking new truths. Taken into protective custody by a mysterious agency known as the Bureau of Genetic Welfare, Tris and Four must quickly decide who they can trust, as a ruthless battle ignites. In order to survive, Tris is forced to make impossible choices about courage, allegiance, and sacrifice.

Again directed by Robert Schwentke, and with Shailene Woodley and Theo James in the leads, the film adaptation is set to be released on 10th March.

The following post is a review of the book only, looking at how it is going to be adapted. You can read my review of the film adaptation in comparison to the book here.

Series Catch-Up:

With the first film adaptation directed by Neil Burger and released in 2014, Divergent introduced us brilliantly to a post-apocalyptic, dystopian world in which society divides its citizens into five different factions – Abnegation (the selfless), Amity (the peaceful), Candor (the honest), Dauntless (the brave), and Erudite (the intelligent).

Centering on 16-year-old Beatrice Prior (Woodley), who knows nothing about the world beyond the walls that enclose the ruins of a futuristic Chicago in which she lives, the first film saw Tris transfer factions, only to discover that she is a Divergent: someone who exercises independent thought, has the ability to control her fears, and who remains self-aware under the mind-controlling simulations that the government puts its citizens under. Discovering her true identity, Tris unravels a plot to destroy Divergents and must keep her identity a secret. Wanting to keep her citizens under control, Erudite leader, Jeanine (Kate Winslet), sees Divergents as a threat, and as a war against Divergents begins, Tris and her Dauntless mentor, Four (James), make a plan to stop her.

Released last year, the adaptation of the second book, Insurgent, then saw Tris and Four, now fugitives on the run, search for allies and answers. Racing against time, the fearless duo set themselves on a dangerous mission to find out what Tris’s family sacrificed their lives to protect, to unlock the truth about the world outside of the walls, and to ultimately save the future of not only of the Divergents, but of all of humanity.

Whilst Allegiant is the final book in Roth’s trilogy, the film is being split into two parts, just like what was done with the Harry Potter, Twilight, and The Hunger Games franchises. Allegiant will, therefore, be followed by a fourth film instalment, titled Ascendant, which will be released this time next year.

Book Review:

Allegiant picks up in the aftermath of Tris’ actions in Insurgent, after she releases a video revealing the truth about the faction system, announcing that the Divergent are needed outside the borders of the city. Tired of waiting for the self-appointed leaders of a now factionless city to make a decision, Tris and Four take things into their own hands and are invited by the rebel group ‘Allegiant’ to join their escape over the wall to discover what lies beyond.

The book starts off with an epigraph from the Erudite faction manifesto: “Every question that can be answered must be answered or at least engaged. Illogical thought processes must be challenged when they arise.” Roth obviously had this intention in mind for her final book, but it quickly becomes apparent that Allegiant wasn’t going to provide all of the answers to the questions that we were deeply craving.

Allegiant does well to tie up some of the loose ends that the previous instalments have opened up, but there’s so much left to explore and to be resolved by the end that it feels like a whole book has been missed out. From the beginning, there is so little focus on what’s going on inside the wall between the factions and factionless, that what’s most important is quickly forgotten. With the group venturing outside of the wall quite early on, we miss out on the real story and only hear snippets of what’s going on from what’s available at the Bureau. And then when it’s about to get good, Four quickly convinces his mother otherwise and we skip over how the only characters we really care about find their resolutions.

What’s going on outside of the wall is obviously important to bring the story to an end, and it’s where all of the answers are going to be found, but it’s all brought on too fast. This final book feels very messy, trying to give too many explanations to everything that’s going on instead of focusing on one problem, one explanation, and one conclusion. Instead, there are too many rebellions going on inside other rebellions, not focusing on a single revolutionary plot or act to have enough impact.

The conclusions given aren’t well thought through, and the bigger picture is often avoided. For a final instalment about genetics, the science just isn’t there and the explanations that are given make very little sense. The Bureau may be worse than the people they are trying to “correct” but, in the end, they are right in what they’re saying. It may have been wrong of them to mess with people’s genetics and to control and monitor them, but if you imagine this story from the opposite point of view, then the “genetically damaged” should be destroyed, and a real world would want to go back to having a “genetically pure” population, since everyone else is technically mutated.

None of this is really explored, and we are instead made to believe Tris, merely to go along with a group of people we were beginning to like, even though, in truth, they are only test subjects in one of many experiments that didn’t go to plan. This bigger context is completely dismissed, and while Tris complains about the Bureau’s plans to erase the memories of Chicago, her plans are so much worse. Tris and the group may not agree with what the Bureau are doing, but their actions are not going to fix the problem, and the conclusions given in the book certainly won’t resolve everything going on in the long run.

Written from the perspective of both Tris and Four, as well, just like the final book in the Twilight series, Allegiant continues to be a well written and descriptive account of a well-structure young adult dystopian world. There’s a lot of nods to the previous instalments, especially to the first book, with the contrast in narratives allowing the characters to discuss how they first met each other and how their relationship has progressed.

Whilst it’s a quality to see Four’s perspective on the situation and to read about how he feels about Tris for a change, their narrative styles aren’t distinctive enough. Of course, there’s a much bigger reason for this change in narrative, which becomes much more apparent towards the end of the book, but the narratives read so similar to each other that Four begins to sound like Tris by the end. That bravado we once loved about him is quickly lost, and the more Tris puts him down, the more their romance gets in the way of what’s important.

Tris has always been a horribly selfish character, which became hugely apparent in Insurgent, and has been one of the most difficult protagonists I have found to try to engage with. She only ever acts with herself in mind, constantly making sure that Four feels guilty about not agreeing with her when her actions only have a short-term span. In Allegiant, there’s too much focus on the petty fallouts between her and Four, of Tris being jealous because Four is talking to a pretty girl, and of Four thinking too much about her reactions than of the greater good.

With the similarities in narratives, as well, with Four sounding more like Tris than the free-thinking hunk with anger issues we saw him as before, Four is a complete wimp in this instalment. All I could think of during this last book was that he needs to man up and tell his woman to pipe down, and I even found myself agreeing with Peter by the end, when he comments that she makes it very easy for a lot of people to dislike her.

But, at the same time, there’s a lot of loyalty between the two. Seeing the story from Four’s point of view allows us to see how Tris has helped him to become a better person, and how the two have depended on each other’s support. It’s lovely to read about how their relationship has developed, especially in the final few chapters, but it does too often deter from the relevance of a supposedly climactic finale.

More importantly, whilst the couple had quite a heated sex scene in the Insurgent film, it’s not until this book that Tris finally takes control and allows Four to take her virginity. It’s quite a big deal in the book, as Tris is constantly telling Four and herself that she’s not ready, which is great for its young adult premise, so for the Insurgent adaptation to take this away from the story is a little disappointing. I’m not sure how Allegiant will follow on from this, whether it will avoid sex altogether or throw in a pointless sex scene every half hour, but either way, it’s not going to work. Their first sex scene should have been at a point when Tris really needed to feel close to Four and to feel like a real 16-year-old girl, which made for some light relief in the book, but the change in Insurgent has made this scene lose all meaning in Allegiant.

Whilst there’s all this focus on Tris and Four, many of the smaller characters don’t get enough attention, either. Peter has a small moment towards the end, but this could have done with being followed up a lot better, and Caleb also nearly has his moment of retribution, only for Tris to trample all over it. The tagline of the film is “One choice can define you”, but Tris yet again jumps in the way of the only character who needs to be redeemed for his betrayal, and once again sacrifices herself for no other reason but to do what she wants. Just like with the Insurgent film skipping out most of Marcus’ actions, the few reasons we had for liking his character, it seems that Allegiant is going down the same road, making it all about Tris and forgetting that there are much more likeable characters involved.

There’s still quite a lot of violence in this instalment, especially at the start, although there are noticeably less deaths of popular characters than in similar franchises. But whilst there are some pretty big twists to come, and one big ‘moment’ that I will steer clear of spoiling, I think these will mostly be saved for the second instalment.

Whilst I have had my fair share of criticisms for the book, Allegiant is still an enjoyable read, and, as a final instalment, it’s much better than most books ending a trilogy usually are. However, whilst Allegiant does well to create a decent dystopian world and revolutionary plot, I don’t have many hopes for the film adaptation, as I will go on to explain…

Trailer Review:

My biggest frustration of film adaptations is when too many changes are made. It’s understandable that everything can’t be included, and that some things have to be altered or missed out completely for time scales and what not, but I can’t get my head around why script writers would want to change whole scenes and events.

When a film is adapted from a book, the story has already been crafted for the filmmakers to develop, and it is this original story that has a huge fan base already in place, which is why the book is being adapted in the first place. So why would you take on a beloved book to change it into something else? There’s nothing I hate more than for a film adaptation to be completely different from the book, and from the look of the trailer for Allegiant alone, this film is almost unrecognisable.

To make things easier, I will list my concerns from the trailer (which you can watch at the bottom of this post) in a chronological order:

  • The team do not abseil over the wall, they jump off the train and are quickly ambushed. This change isn’t necessarily an issue because it adds some more action, but it then means that what happens next has to be totally different, too. As the trailer shows, the group walk through desert landscapes and take shelter in an abandoned building in the rain, when in the book they are simply driven to the Bureau. Why add more than what’s needed?
  • What’s with the invisible wall? The Bureau arrive in cars, and there definitely aren’t any aircrafts involved at any point. The Bureau have to describe to the group what an aeroplane is, for starters, so Tris certainly doesn’t fly one on her own, either.
  • The Bureau looks completely over the top. It’s supposed to be an old airport that’s done up nicely. Yes, the Bureau are more technologically advanced, but it seems that the invisible wall, the appearance of the buildings, and the inclusion of aircrafts is all just for effects. The series is set in a futuristic world, but everything feels a lot simpler in the book.
  • Four is told that “They have grown up watching you”. Firstly, I don’t remember any mention of children in the Bureau at all, and they don’t receive such a warm welcome. Secondly, nobody “grew up watching” them; they weren’t part of a reality TV show, they were simply monitored by those in charge.
  • Nobody is assigned to anybody, and there’s no weapons training in new technology. The Bureau actually appreciate that the group can handle a weapon better than them, and they are never separated from being a group.
  • No rescue missions happen. There is an area known as the “Fringe” where people escape to and live in a poverty-like state, but Four sneaks off their once, and Tris is only briefly shown the area towards the end. The group, in fact, do very little whilst they are at the Bureau. Most of what happens in the book revolves around them being told or finding out the truth about what has happened to them and the rest of Chicago. There is very little action at all.
  • For what action/acts of revolution that does happen in the book, the trailer shows nothing of these scenes. There’s no look at Nita trying to get into the weapons lab, no scenes of the group being shown their DNA, and no scenes around the use of different serums, which are the biggest revelations in the book.
  • Tris does become part of the committee in her fancy white outfit, but only towards the end of the book. We only see her involved in one meeting, and this is ideally where Part 1 should end, with the revelation of the Bureau’s plans.
  • There is a threat that the Bureau will be shut down but it doesn’t actually get put into motion, nor do they plan to kill everybody in Chicago, only to erase their memories. This does spark the groups concern, but what follows is completely different.
  • Tris says that Four is right about what’s going on, when in fact she spends most of the book in a strop about how he won’t believe her, and that she is the only one that is ever right. Maybe this is a good change from the book because Four needs to stand up to her. He may be right about the situation in a bigger context, but Tris needs no convincing and is probably in too much of a mood with him at this point to admit that.
  • Four tells the group that they should leave, which doesn’t happen. That’s not part of their plan, and although some of the team do leave the Bureau, this isn’t until the very end, again, and Tris stays behind. There seems to be too much focus on this in the trailer, whereas this should be where Ascendant begins, since everything that happens after is so closely linked. With these scenes being such a big part of the trailer, I worry that the filmmakers have made up their own ending in some way, because there’s just not enough story left after some of the group leave the Bureau.

Usually, at this point, I would also make a guess of where in the book I think Part 1 will end and Part 2 will begin, but from the footage that has been released in the trailers so far, any hope of easily pinpointing this has been thrown right out of the window.

A lot of what happens in the trailer doesn’t happen until the very end of the book, and whilst there’s still quite a bit left to happen, it doesn’t seem that enough has been left over for Ascendant to take on. Ideally, what this first film should do is to do most of the explaining, detailing who the Bureau are and what their purpose is, to describe the apocalyptic/dystopian setting of the series in a fuller context, and then end by revealing the Bureau’s plans for Chicago, allowing us to anticipate what’s going to happen to bring everything to a close.

After Insurgent, I wasn’t particularly excited for the series to continue with the many changes already in place. I loved Divergent but it all quickly went downhill after that. After seeing how different this trailer looks from the book, as well, I’m not looking forward to this next instalment already.

The Director & Writer:

Robert Schwentke, who directed Insurgent, returns as director. Schwentke has some great films under his helm, including the adaptation of The Time Traveler’s Wife, as well as the comedy/action films R.I.P.D. and RED. Schwentke should have been the perfect man for the job; he can do book adaptations, he can do romance, and he can do decent action, which should combine to make an excellent young adult dystopia.

As a film, Insurgent had these qualities, but it was the writing and the way the adaptation was handled that let it down. There were so many changes from the book to the film in Insurgent that I often felt frustrated. Some of the changes worked well, but overall there were too many alterations that affect the film in context of the whole trilogy, with many of the changes affecting Allegiant in the long run.

For Allegiant, Noah Oppenheim, who wrote the screenplay for The Maze Runner, has written the script. Oppenheim is a great writer, but, just like we can predict for this film, there were many changes in The Maze Runner film from the book, and from the trailer alone, it’s obvious that he has dealt with this adaptation in the same way.

Oppenheim has written the script alongside Adam Cooper and Bill Collage, who have worked together on scripts for films including Assassin’s Creed, The Transporter Refueled, and Exodus: Gods and Kings.

The Cast:

All of the original cast, that survived Insurgent, at least, return, including Shailene Woodley as Tris, Theo James as Four, Ansel Elgort as Caleb, Zoë Kravitz as Christina, Miles Teller as Peter, Ray Stevenson as Marcus, Naomi Watts as Evelyn Johnson-Eaton, Octavia Spencer as Johanna Reyes, Maggie Q as Tori, and Keiynan Lonsdale as Uriah.

New additions to the cast include Jeff Daniels as David, Bill Skarsgård as Matthew, and Nadia Hilker as Nita. the casting of Daniels is excellent news and he’s going to suit the character of David brilliantly. Without much else to look forward to in this latest instalment, at least Daniels adds something to look forward to.

Just to add to the number of changes, as well, it appears that there is no casting accreditation for Cara, who has been left out of every instalment so far. It’s doubly shocking that she’s not in this final instalment, however, since Allegiant should begin with her being imprisoned with Tris and Christina after the events of Insurgent, and then she is revealed to be the leader of the Allegiant. I’m not sure how they’ll get around this one, but it looks like they’re not doing anything by the book with this latest chapter.

The Divergent Series: Allegiant is set to be released in cinemas on 10th March.

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