Book-To-Film Friday: “Allegiant” diverges from novel…

…and not in a good way.

Allegiant, the third film in the Divergent series based on the trilogy by Veronica Roth, and part one of a two-part adaption, hit theaters for an early release last night (Thursday). The following review is spoiler-free.

Like many Divergent book series fans, I was not happy with the way things played out in the Allegiant novel’s storyline. I came into the theater hopeful that some productive changes were made in the plot, but it fell short of admittedly low expectations.

As far as character, Tris (Shailene Woodley) and Tobias (Theo James) fall flat. Their chemistry is better than it was in the first two films, but both Shailene and Theo seem disengaged. As Tris herself becomes more significant in relation to the rest of the world, her relatable qualities dwindle. Tobias’ character improves from previous films, as he reacts to certain revelations and opens up emotionally, but his stoic nature adversely affects his performance. Most supporting characters are easily forgettable, or poorly introduced, and sustain little emotional connection to the audience. The exception is Peter, played by Miles Teller, which is a testament to Miles’ acting ability and Peter’s dynamic character.

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What the film lacks in character development, it doesn’t make up in plot. Blatant exposition overshadows the shock-value of the Bureau, and “hidden” agendas can be seen from a mile away. With a 121 minute runtime, it should have paced well, but it drags on in certain areas.

While strong SFX and VFX help the film as a whole, the visual effects were sometimes laughable. I had to hold back a few giggles as Tris and Friends were surrounded by bubbles a la Glinda the Good Witch and carried off to the Bureau of Genetic Welfare. It came across as childish, rather than futuristic.

And for all you fans of the books: beware, yet again, that Uriah is pushed-not just to the sidelines-but to the nosebleed seats at the back of the stadium. He can be seen as Johanna’s (Octavia Spencer) right-hand man in a few shots, but for a fan-favorite character so integral to the novels, it’s disappointing to see such minor involvement of his role. At the same time, Matthew, who is described in the books as Asian, is played by Bill Skarsgård, who looks like a young German during World War II.

Bill Skarsgard as Matthew in ‘Allegiant’

The YA genre has been criticized for it’s lack of people of color, but even when characters exist in the books, they are glossed over, or whitewashed, in the film adaptions. Tobias’ mother Evelyn (Naomi Watts), is explicitly a person of color in the books, but with Naomi Watts’ portrayal, that is lost along with Tobias’ identity as mixed race.

Naomi Watts as Evelyn in ‘Allegiant.’ Book’s description of Evelyn: “curly black hair, olive skin, and stern, angular features.”

Although recasting Evelyn would be confusing at this point, Uriah should have gotten the screen time he deserved. In the book, he escapes with Tris over the city wall, and becomes somewhat of a love interest for Christina. This change wouldn’t have dramatically changed the existing movie plot, but it would have given justice to Uriah’s character when he’s been so poorly represented in the films.

Allegiant, like many recent YA adaptions since Potter, is split into two films. Instead of a “Part 1” and “Part 2,” the people with the corner offices decided to name the fourth film Ascendant. This has caused some confusion with casual movie-goers, as they expected Allegiant to be the final installment. As the audience walked out of the theater, distressed fans could be heard questioning the ending of what they thought was the last film in the Divergent franchise. Ascendant is set for release on June 9, 2017, from Insurgent and Allegiant director Robert Schwentke.

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Adapting other ‘Potter’ spinoffs

Last Thursday, J.K. Rowling confirmed via Twitter that the Harry Potter spinoff, Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them, will be a trilogy.

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If a somewhat inconsequential Care of Magical Creatures textbook can become a movie, what other books in the Potter universe could be adapted into film?

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(The following are all real titles from the Wizarding World.)

Quidditch Through the Ages

Sports Drama

Reminiscent of Remember the Titans, Rudy, and Field of Dreams, Quidditch Through the Ages is a heart-wrenching sports drama. With action-packed scenes on the Quidditch pitch and inspiring team captain speeches, a film centered on the underdog team who played in the world’s longest Quidditch match, which lasted a staggering 3 months, gives moviegoers something to root for.

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A History of Magic

Period Piece

An epic saga covering witch hunts, goblin rebellions and giant wars through the end of the 19th century. The film features notable figures throughout magical history, including Uric the Oddball, who was famous for wearing a jellyfish as a hat and was briefly mentioned in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.

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Magick Moste Evile

Horror

From the deepest, darkest depths of the Restricted Section, comes a horror film unlike any other. Godelot, the author of Magick Moste Evile, was thought to have written the book that advanced the Dark Arts with the help of the Elder wand. Magick Moste Evile delves into Godelot’s “research” during the Middle Ages, explores his discovery of Horcruxes and why he chose not to describe them in detail in the published version of his work.

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Broken Balls: When Fortunes Turn Foul

Comedy

Briefly mentioned in Prisoner of Azkaban, this Flourish and Blotts Divination book would work best as a comedy. An “unlucky in love” wizard seeks the advice of a Divination expert to provide some guidance in his romantic escapades. Just when everything he was told to do falls apart, the rest of his life falls into place.

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The Hairy Heart: A Guide to Wizards Who Won’t Commit

Rom-Com

He’s Just Not That Into You for the modern witch.

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And my personal favorite…

The Tales of Beedle the Bard

Fairy-tale

A collection of five fairy-tales, with the potential to turn into a five-part series, The Tales of Beedle the Bard, include the well-known Tale of the Three Brothers, as well as, The Fountain of Fair Fortune, The Wizard and the Hopping Pot, Babbity Rabbity and Her Cackling Stump, and, of course, the Grimm-like and gruesome Warlock’s Hairy Heart.

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What other Potter spinoffs would you like to see move from page to screen?