The Divergent series is reaching its end, but since the Hunger Games filmmakers defined “trilogy” to mean four films, Allegiant is just a prelude to the final curtain fall in Ascendant, which is scheduled to be released in 2017.
But Allegiant’s makers have promised bigger action and more breathtaking sets as our heroes, led by Tris (Shailene Woodley) and Four (Theo James), go over the wall that surrounds the dystopian Chicago into the world beyond.
One of the first action scenes involve the gang using high-tech grappling hooks to scale the wall. For the shooting, the filmmakers built a 24-metre wall topped with an electrified metal fence at the Bellwood Quarry near Atlanta. Visual effects were later added in post-production to make it appear over 60m.
It was a tough test of strength and endurance for the actors to climb the wall, and even though Ansel Elgort, who plays Tris’ brother Caleb, is a rock climber himself, he had to pretend that he was an amateur climber to fit his character. The scene took a total of eight days to film: three at the quarry, and five on a smaller, less steeply angled wall built to make it easier for the actors to say their lines while climbing.
As the gang make it over the war, they find themselves in a toxic desert known as The Fringe. To create a broken, diseased but colourful environment, production designer Alec Hammond took inspiration from copper mine run-offs in Alberta and giant garbage heaps in China. The crew sprayed about 80,000 gallons of red dye to cover 15 acres of terrain in four locations. “We’ve seen enough concrete ruins and rubble in the last two film,” says Hammond, relishing at the chance to create a whole new landscape for the characters to move through.
But most exciting of all is the design of the Bureau of Genetic Welfare, to which the gang are taken from The Fringe. The landmark structure was filmed on the site of Chicago’s defunct O’Hare Airport. “We added a couple of new terminals, then we broke the whole thing down,” says Hammond. “When the purity wars [in the film] happened, planes got left on the runways, equipment stuck at the gates. We have those elements visible inside the actual layout of O’Hare, which is now overgrown with weeds and trees.”
The old airport relics posed a stark contrast with the modern designs that were later add through CGI, such as the Bureau’s iconic high-rise Spire.
200 prop makers, painters, plasterers and carpenters worked seven days a week for eleven months straight to complete the Bureau’s six interior sets. “The Bureau needed to be bigger and grander than the spaces in Insurgent, filled with more people to create a place that feels like it’s humming with activity,” says Hammond. “We took the bones of this former fiber optic manufacturing facility and designed within it.”
As Tris and her fellow adventurers try to survive in the world outside, Chicago’s leader Evelyn (Naomi Watts) sends her henchman Edgar (Jonny Weston) to hunt them down. It was almost a dream come true for the actor as he got to do his own stunt-driving, running a tank-like Specialised Reconnaissance Assault Transport vehicle on a wide, harsh terrain. “I race through the Mojave Desert for fun,” says Weston. “So getting the opportunity to drive the SRAT full speed with a machine gun cranking as hard as I can, jumping and riding dunes in the middle of Atlanta, was really fun. It was an insane action scene.”
Opens on March 10