Why I’m Likely Not Going To See Divergent: Ascendent

Maybe you haven’t heard. After Divergent: Allegiant, they’re supposedly scheduling a fourth movie, known as Ascendant. This will “complete” the series as it was intended to be told. However, I, and much of the population would be better off ending the series uncompleted.

Don’t get me wrong, I like the Divergent series, for the most part. However, having tried to wade through the print version of Allegiant, I came to one conclusion. It was a trainwreck. First off, the story was told as a single narrative from Tris, but now it switches back and forth between Tris and Tobias. Tris’s narrative, honestly, was part of what worked for the first two books, making the entire story jarring to read. That’s not the only thing that switches back and forth, either, it seems like there is a lot more travel between the area beyond the wall and the city of Chicago. Then we have switching back and forth between the faction and factionless sides, and it just seemed very disorganized and… well, stupid. We learn about the various colored formulas, the memory formula and the death formula. First, they try to wipe the memory of everyone, to start over because David, the leader of the camp outside, has to answer to his superiors for the war going on in Chicago.

Aside from not even mentioning the death formula, this is mostly what happened in the movie so far. But then (and my memory is kinda rusty from reading it about a year and a half ago, and then seeing the movie) I believe after stopping Tobias’s mom, they have another point where David tries again to take over the city. Already, this book is repetitive, lacking some of the novel aspects of the previous books. This is in fact an unnecessary story arc, because technically, having failed to clean up the city, his superiors could easily have demoted him, and since they weren’t that invested in the city, might have left it alone. Instead, we get into the worst part of the story.

Before I continue, we need to talk about the symbolic aspect of the books and movies. There is a sense of religion and transcendental reality all through the plot, with themes of resurrection and immortality pervading as well. In book and movie one, Tris awakens during a virtual reality sequence from a chemical formula, designed to test her caste affinity, by discovering she has the ability to detect when “this isn’t real” in regards to reality. This is part of what makes the series interesting, and I think it is a good metaphor for our own reality, to say nothing of being a very cool scene. The second movie, they deviate substantially from the book’s plot. In the book, Janine is trying to control Tris, and keeps doing control simulations (everything in the books is based on potions and formulas), and there is some deal where they try to sneak. In the movie, they decide (much like I did) that this is LAME, and instead shift the story to an ancient artifact being discovered, which requires someone qualifying for all of the factions, so Tris retakes her factions test. This is a massive deviation from the book, but the section works both from a plot and from a character perspective. We learn more about what makes Tris tick, even than from the book. Tris gets very far during this simulation, but due to the mental strain of the test, gets a massive seizure, and apparently dies. Like the third book (I’ll get to that later), we have a resurrection motif, and she tries this over again. We see her figuring out that this is an illusion, conquering her fear, telling the truth, passing the Abnegation part, and finally facing the Amity test. Contrary to what you would believe from the sound of Amity, this is not an easy test. Tris must conquer her impulse to fight back, or else the entire world falls apart around her and she dies from the fall. This scene reads very much like one conquering her reality and becoming transcendent (or Ascendant), and we could very much end here. Especially, now that we see the entire city becoming free, walking and climbing towards the outside. Sure, fine, end here. The third movie, they are once again trapped inside the walls of the city, but the main characters decide to take a climbing mission across the border. As I say, they meet David, and discover about the genetic manipulation of the past, and how Tris was the end result of an experiment to return to the true nature of humanity (a rather good metaphor here for the tendency of people to say “I’m only human” and limit themselves to single-faceted existence, when in fact they can become much greater). We have a rather cool scene where they gain new technology where they can control drones to defend themselves with shields and sense stuff. These are a sort of metaphor for the true power of humanity, what Spirit Science calls the Merkaba (an energy field using the power of the heart). We then have the main characters returning to their home, and retaking it from these thugs using the above abilities (“technology”), uniting their old home with the knowledge of the new world. From a metaphorical standpoint, we could end the story here, too.

Unfortunately, the book doesn’t end the story there. Rather than the memory gas wiping out everyone’s mind getting stopped by Tris and company, we have some deal where Tris has to stop David, and to do that she has to sneak into some room guarded by the death poison. Again, this is sort of transcendental spirituality at work. She overcomes the death poison, and takes the McGuffin behind it, only to just get shot down. Can you say broken aesop? We have a scene where she is quietly ushered out of the picture by her mom, and yay she’s dead. David gets stopped and the people of Chicago are free. But ummm, aren’t they already free? Isn’t the city already united at the end of the Allegiant movie? Why the hell do we need this sequence? We then are treated to a maxim about as trite as “Love means never having to say you’re sorry” telling the reader that all of us are damaged, but that it’s when we are together that we can heal the damage. Unfortunately, I really didn’t care about the whole pure/damaged arc, so this section seems like a waste of storytelling and killing off a character that didn’t need to be sacrificed to tell a stupid moral. If Ascendant promises a better ending than the book, cool. If not, it is better not to watch, and just end the story here. That said, I probably will anyway, because I’m a sucker for an action romance dystopia.      

 

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