The Divergent series returns to theaters with Insurgent, another nonsensical young adult film that makes me root for the evil dystopian society against the plucky heroine. The story picks up with Tris (Shailene Woodley), her hunky stud boyfriend Four (Theo James), baby-faced brother Caleb (Ansel Elgort), and the smirking Peter (Miles Teller), hiding out with the hippie farmers of the Amity faction. While they're wearing cotton and planting veggies, the evil Jeanine (Kate Winslet) and her minions have discovered an ancient device hidden by The Founders of their society. It contains a secret message that can only be opened by someone who is divergent. The simulations contained in the device are lethal to the quasi-divergent. Only the most divergent individual, full on 100%, gangster divergent to the core, will have the ability to pass the tests and unlock the future.
Insurgent is a flawed film on many fronts. The script by Bryan Duffield and Akiva Goldsman is completely absurd. I've never read the novel by Veronica Roth, but I would hope that the film is not a faithful adaptation. The set-ups for each scene never shows how the characters reach their destinations. They just simply appear on the doorsteps of where they need to be. Or they say, I'm going to this location, and voila, they're magically transported, even as armies! At first I thought this was an editing decision by Director Robert Schwentke, but then it continued to happen throughout the film. The only presumption that remains is a poorly written script. This boggles the mind to say the least.
Insurgent has a fine acting ensemble wasting their talents en masse. I suppose every actor needs a hit to keep the paychecks coming. Kate Winslet's turn as the villainous Jeanine is just terrible. She's aiming to be diabolical, but is about as threatening as a butterfly. Then we have Naomi Watts, Octavia Spencer, and Ashley Judd, in flashbacks, equally implausible. Shailene Woodley does her best to keep Insurgent chugging along as the lead, but she is also very weak here. I have to chalk the performances up to the feeble script and poor direction. These women are all tremendous talents and have proven that soundly in better films.
The visual effects are a cross between Inception and The Matrix. Tris becomes Neo and is plugged into these tentacle arms. She then enters into a virtual reality world where she's jumping from building to building as they digitally explode. The effects and 3D aren't bad, but they seem like stale retreads of effects work from other films. Hollywood thrives off imitation, but it would have been nice to see something more original; especially when the filmmakers had such a huge budget.
Insurgent doesn't surpass the first film, which itself was not that good. It may be, once again haven't not read the novels, that the source material is flimsy. I think that's a stretch because they are popular and beloved by readers. It's probably another case of a good book getting a deficient film adaptation. There's nothing any critic can say as the audience demand for Insurgent is so high, but I do hope the studio does better on the next film. The bar is so low at this point.
The Divergent Series: Insurgent is out March 18, 2015.