The Revolution, in the End, is Rather Bland.
Director: ROBERT SCHWENTKE/2015
Divergent introduced us to a dystopian world where a society that is walled off and protected from whatever lies beyond it seeks to live in harmony in peace and rebuild in old Chicago. The society is made up of five factions which are populated by individuals based on values and aptitude. One must take a placement test to officially join the faction. Those who do not make the cut for a faction are considered “faction-less” and survive with great struggle in the shadows of this society. Then there are those who transcend the factions. They are called “Divergent” and possess abilities for more than one faction. They are seen as dangerous to this utopian society that is set up and run by a counsel with each faction assuming different roles to meet all of the needs of the society.
When Divergent ended, Tris (Shailene Woodley), Four (Theo James), Caleb (Ansel Elgort), and Peter (Miles Teller) were on the run from their factions and mostly from Jeanine (Kate Winslet) who was seeking to destroy anyone who tested as “Divergent”. The second film in this series is Insurgent, and it picks up immediately where Divergent left off.
In this new entry, and without giving away any spoilers, Tris and Four are looking for a way to confront Jeanine and stop her diabolical plan. Tris spends the entire movie struggling with having lost her mom (played in Divergent and in this film by Ashley Judd), and trying to come to grips with the fact that her divergence may just be the advantage a resistance movement is looking for.
Caleb, Tris’ brother is still struggling with his allegiance to his faction over his love for his sister. “Faction before blood” has been the mantra, and after finding out in Divergent that his parents were part of an underground resistance movement despite being in one of the most selfless factions who serve others, it has him reeling and disillusioned. Finally, Peter, ever the opportunist and Tris and Four’s rival, is not sure that joining a growing insurgency is in his best interest. Jeanine has also located a device that possibly contains a message from the founders of their society. The only way to open it is by way of a divergent, who she is hunting down and killing, putting Tris directly in her crosshairs.
Despite all of this description of plot, Insurgent isn’t actually all that interesting. Like its predecessor, it suffers from being a rather mundane story that still lacks any chemistry between its two leads. Shailene Woodley has given us strong performances in the past with The Descendants and last year’s The Fault in Our Stars, but as ZekeFilm Founder, and Film Critic, Jim Tudor described her performance in Divergent as a lot of “deer in the headlights” looks, nothing has changed.
With this sequel, there is, in addition to the aforementioned looks, an enormous amount of screen time devoted to Tris crying or feeling sad. Two hours of tears and wallowing. Much of this is meant to provide a more layered storyline that rises above typically shallow young adult fiction source material. And on one level, it is welcomed as it anchors what Shailene Woodley’s character is going through and binds it to a real world emotion, which is understandable with her having lost her mother in the first film. Many blockbuster films have their protagonist experience all kinds of loss only to shake it off immediately in order to move on the next set piece (see A Good Day to Die Hard as an example). Here, though, it only serves to drag down the action as the next set pieces keep coming whether the character of Tris wants them to or not. This is, after-all, meant to be a blockbuster franchise, and it has to keep moving, even when it isn’t saying very much in the process.
The cast of Insurgent is just as impressive as the cast of the first film. Naomi Watts joins up for this go around, and there is an Octavia Spencer sighting, but she is hardly used in this installment, which is a shame. Since the last film, Miles Teller’s stock has gone through the roof with his incredible portrayal in Whiplash, and his being cast in the Fantastic Four reboot. Here, it feels like he is going through the motions, hitting his John Cusack impersonations with great integrity, but sleepwalking through a very bland and telegraphed script.
However you felt about Divergent, is exactly how you will feel about its sequel, Insurgent. Like The Who sang, “Meet the new boss (film), same as the old boss (film)” (italics mine), nothing is really new here. The storyline does move forward, however, so that is a positive.
I happened to have watched this in IMAX 3D, but there is no need to see it in either IMAX, or 3D for that matter. The visuals would have been much the same in a 2D format. So don’t be suckered into paying more for this movie than you have to.
Lionsgate is behind this series, as well as the superior youth-themed dystopian films The Hunger Games. Despite Mockingjay, the third Hunger Games film, suffering from being split into a 2 part finale ala Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Lionsgate has decided to give the same treatment to the upcoming 3rd entry in this series. This all-but ensuring at least 2 more years of films for this cast of characters. It’s an obvious cash grab, and maybe a plot to kill us all with boredom. I don’t know for sure, but if they have 2 more movies in development, they should have told the script writers forInsurgent as the film ends on a note that would perfectly allow them to walk away from it all right now.
Unless you read the books, there is no real hint of a larger plot beyond what we are shown here, and thus Insurgent builds no real anticipation about what the future holds, for either the characters or the franchise.
Lionsgate must understand that despite the title of this film, there is no revolution in progress demanding anymore of these films be made other than the fans of the book series. And so in the end, Insurgent passes quietly like a bland meal. It is enough to fill you up, but not really able to leave you wanting more. Fortunately, it is just a placeholder at the box office until the summer films start opening in April.