The second film adaptation of Veronica Roth’s popular “Divergent” novels doesn’t improve on the first movie’s flaws, and in fact those problems are exacerbated by “Insurgent,” which is destined to be adored only by die-hard fans. When compared to the similarly-themed “Hunger Games” franchise, “Insurgent” feels derivative and unimaginative, and it lacks dramatic tension and colorful, memorable characters.
Let’s put it this way, Shailene Woodley is a good actress, but she’s no Jennifer Lawrence. And without a strong ensemble cast around her (consider how many Oscar nominees are in the “Hunger Games” films) much of the burden of “Insurgent’s” dystopian gravity falls on Woodley’s slight shoulders, just below her perfectly-moussed, pixie-cut hairdo.
On the run and searching for allies in war-torn futuristic Chicago, Tris (Woodley) and boyfriend Four (Theo James), brother Caleb (Ansel Elgort) and duplicitous friend Peter (Miles Teller) are given refuge by Amity, one of the five factions. Secrets regarding Four’s family will soon be revealed and they will be hunted by Jeanine, leader of the Erudite faction (Kate Winslet) and her henchman Eric (Jai Courtney). There is a specific reason for Jeanine’s evil intentions, and they compel Tris to engage in mind-bending simulations that will require her to confront her divergence in the hope of saving a world in conflict.
There are fight sequences that seem moot and cold-blooded murders that appear ignoble considering the valiant inclinations of the characters. The would-be themes seem murky—after all, what is everybody fighting about? And why does Jeanine appear perpetually trapped in the same blue dress? Winslet’s character is more caricature than revelation, and Teller’s Peter, the most interesting character in this installment, is underused.
The “Divergent” series, with at least two more films coming down the pike, appears to be a victim of its time. Given the abundance of Young Adult adaptations, from blockbusters like “The Hunger Games” series to more modest productions like “The Maze Runner” and “The Giver” which are infinitely more creative, “Divergent” and “Insurgent” represent missed opportunities to bring something fresh and invigorating to the landscape.
Rated PG-13 for violence