The Bock’s Office: ‘Insurgent’ a slightly enhanced sequel
March 26, 2015
"The Divergent Series: Insurgent" may not go in an entirely new direction, but as a bridge between two other movies, at least it holds up, even with the shaky foundation with which it started.
If you go…
"The Divergent Series: Insurgent," rated PG-13
Rating: 2.5 out of 4 stars
Running time: 119 minutes
Starring: Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Octavia Spencer and Kate Winslet
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It's not a good time to be different, and Tris Prior (Shailene Woodley) has found that out the hard way.
In her futuristic society in which factions based on personality traits are everything, her labeling as a Divergent — possessing multiple faction strengths — has made her a threat to the way of life, and even hiding out among the outlying, rural people of Amity isn't going to keep her and her friends safe for long.
Tris and her boyfriend, Four (Theo James), nonetheless have to face up to the mess they've left behind in the barricaded city where they once lived, something that brings with it a lot of personal pain and risk. What's more, Jeanine (Kate Winslet), the leader of the Erudite faction, has taken it upon herself to weed out the remaining Divergents, her motivation for doing so going beyond simple prejudice.
Woodley is noticeably tougher in her second outing as Tris; she’s seen more hardships than most, and now, trying to hold on to her humanity while keeping too much guilt and regret inside, the poor girl is unable to stop thinking about all the death that has been around her lately and the additional battles to come.
Winslet's Jeanine thankfully has more screen time now, though that's a mixed bag when you're talking about a woman whose image is being broadcast on every screen stating the importance of rounding up a certain percentage of the populace. The fact that this science-minded bureaucrat wants Divergents captured alive to serve a "greater" purpose is what truly solidifies her sinister status.
James is alright as Tris's gloomy guy, as is Ansel Elgort as her weak-willed brother, Caleb. Miles Teller gets a lot of attention as their frenemy, Peter, a conniving former member of the Candor faction whose natural blunt honesty only comes into play when it gets him something.
Octavia Spencer has too small a role as the earth mother head of the Amity commune, whereas Naomi Watts quickly becomes tiresome as Four's long-lost mom, Evelyn, who's ready to lead the Divergents and Factionless — yep, even here, there are folks who can't cut it in any part of civilization — against the forces that keep them down.
Subtlety, thy name is not the young adult genre.
There are some glaring changes from the second book in Veronica Roth's series, some typical, like condensing the number of characters and their importance, and others laughable, like playing up scenes that try to justify an audience in 3-D glasses.
To be fair, the visuals aren't bad, such as the sleek skyscraper — a literal ivory tower — where Erudite conducts its business, or the overly vivid dreams that keep permeating Tris's life, taking on a new form and getting all too real — and needlessly dramatic — by the end.
Where "Divergent" overdid so many things, its sequel plays it wisely, scaling back in both running time and plot, which allows more of the subtext to shine through and highlights themes like forgiveness and hypocrisy with less of the cumbersome approach that made Tris's introduction duller than it needed to be. Apparently none of those five factions has members with an innate talent for filmmaking, but at least their portrayal can get better bit by bit.
"Insurgent" still isn't jaw-dropping entertainment, yet it's a step up from its predecessor, staying watchable and leaving those of us who haven't read the books now far more curious to see what's around the next corner. To director Robert Schwentke — as long as you cut down on the hilariously awful slow-motion sequences, we'll give it a shot.