Thursday, March 26, 2015

"The Divergent Series: Insurgent" Review by Jim Herling

When it came out last year, I really enjoyed Divergent. I found it pretty lively and action-packed, with smart dialogue and an interesting premise. And of course it helped that Shailene Woodley was fantastic, bringing real depth to her character. So of course you can now imagine my disappointment at discovering just how bad Insurgent is.

Insurgent (directed by Robert Schwentke, screenplay by Akiva Goldsman and Brian Duffield, based on Veronica Roth's novel) continues the story of Tris Prior (Woodley), who is rare to her walled society because she's a Divergent, someone who doesn't fit into the society's factions system. As the movie opens, she and her lover Four (Theo James, who seems to be capable of no emotion except brooding) are on the run from Jeanine (Kate Winslet, who easily puts in the film's best performance), leader of one of the factions who is slowly taking over the system as a whole. The supporting cast is rounded out by people like Octavia Spencer, Jai Courtney, Ray Stevenson, Zoe Kravitz, Ansel Elgort, Maggie Q, and Naomi Watts. The problem is that none of them are given much to do except Elgort, who is decent as Tris' conflicted brother Caleb; and Teller, who as Tris' "frenemy" Peter steals every scene he's in, as is his way (it helps that the only time any of the wit and joy of the first installment's screenplay is found in this new installment is in his dialogue). Of course, the rest of the cast is incidental, only existing to help or hinder Tris. This is Woodley's show, and therein lies the problem.

There's a lot less action in this one and even more focus on Tris and her emotional state (whether that's a change the novel makes as well or one stemming from Insurgent having different writers and director from Divergent, and thus different priorities, I don't know) and it just doesn't work. Woodley is usually a very capable, powerful actress but she fell flat for me here, coming across way too thin and reedy for the strength Tris is supposed to possess. For someone who was placed in the warrior faction, Tris needs to be rescued a lot. The whole movie is basically her getting into trouble and being rescued. Between that and the multiple betrayals, few of which make any sort of logical sense, Insurgent just feels like a jumbled mess, and a boring one at that, with the lack of action. I don't like doing it, but I can only give Insurgent 1.5 stars out of 5, and hope the next one will be better.

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