In a futuristic world where society has been broken up into all-important factions, a young teen by the name of Beatrice Prior (Shailene Woodley) has been deemed a “divergent” and is now on the run. Due to her remarkable ability to take various serums and, while unconscious, survive obstacle courses (her dreams are monitored for her acumen), Beatrice is highly sought after and considered dangerous. She’s on the run with the brooding Four (played by Theo James) and trying to avoid being captured by the wicked Jeanine (Kate Winslet), who governs this cruel world.
This is yet another high school fantasy masquerading as science fiction, served up as a YA book turned movie adaptation. Once again, being yourself, getting the hot guy, defying the soulless adults and escaping from your confined home room–I mean, dystopia–is the overall goal. The question I kept wondering during this lousy sequel wasn’t whether Woodley’s “Tris” would make it to prom–sorry, “beyond the barrier”–but whether the makers of this series have a daily mantra where they chant, “it’s nothing like The Hunger Games.”
I liked Divergent, the first installment of this franchise, despite being too similar to The Hunger Games and obviously intended as a breakout showcase for Shailene Woodley. She’s a great actress, which I know from her work in The Spectacular Now and The Descendents. She acts her heart out playing Tris but, unfortunately, I don’t mean that as a compliment. She’s trying too hard and, as much as CGI enhances every leap and unintentionally hilarious slo-mo lunge she makes at Winslet, she’s not a convincing action hero.
As the man snoring audibly behind me at the preview screening can attest, Insurgent is dull, cold and presents a world that is no longer fresh in a franchise with no immediacy or suspense. Despite the many explosions and overly choreographed fight scenes, this isn’t much of an action movie and never builds momentum or excitement. The best thing here are the dream sequences, with players taking on “Sim” challenges, which offer trippy visuals. Sadly, what isn’t noteworthy is the acting.
Woodley begins the movie with long hair and gives herself an improbably perfect Felicity cut, which has a Samson-like effect on her acting. I don’t mean to keep picking on her but she’s just not very good in this and, at times, looks ridiculous. The pixie haircut doesn’t help, as Tris comes across less like Katniss Everdeen and more like Tinkerbell in battle duds.
Then there’s Winslet–basically an evil schoolmarm–in the kind of role Louise Fletcher could play better with one hand tied behind her back. Winslet’s blank, monotone delivery is matched by her co-star, Naomi Watts; it’s no fun watching these extraordinary actresses give dueling bad performances.
James impressed me in the first movie but is now on hand for his “hottie” qualities and little else. His goo-goo eyed close-ups with Woodley are given much attention and resemble puppy love more than genuine chemistry. Watching Woodley perform opposite Miles Teller (doing one-note arrogance as Tris’ wormy opponent) only made me wish I was watching them in The Spectacular Now, where they’re both terrific.
Insurgent is a silly Logan’s Run knockoff, though this franchise is so obviously modeled after The Hunger Games, which itself is a watered-down, white-washed Battle Royale. The onscreen title is The Divergent Series: Insurgent and the new installment is already scheduled for next year. I know they chose Allegiant but, considering what a stinker this is, my title suggestion is Detergent.