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Review: Insurgent

Insurgent
03.18.2015
5 10

PLOT: After having foiled the “Erudite” uprising, Tris (Shailene Woodley) and Four (Theo James) find themselves on the run. They take shelter with the “Factionless” – who are planning an armed revolt under the leadership of Four’s estranged mother (Naomi Watts). Tris also has to contend with the evil head of Erudite (Kate Winslet) who believes Tris’ divergent qualities make her the only one capable of opening a mysterious box which may give her the power to rule over all the factions as their undisputed leader.

REVIEW: THE DIVERGENT SERIES isn’t the worst YA adaptation I’ve seen, but it’s also far from the best. The first film was uneven, suffering from an all-too familiar premise that’s too close to other YA fare like THE HUNGER GAMES and THE GIVER – not that it mattered much to the teen audiences who flocked to see it last spring, guaranteeing that DIVERGENT would become THE DIVERGENT SERIES. It’s always felt like this series was designed to give Summit another HUNGER GAMES, and sure enough they have stumbled upon a real, honest-to-God star-in-the-making with Shailene Woodley.

 

In my review of the first film, I argued that Woodley seemed out-of-sorts in an action-adventure film, but a year and a different haircut really made a world of difference this time, with Woodley coming into her own here. She’s now much easier to swallow as the kick-ass heroine, even if her chemistry with co-star Theo James is still lacking. Like in the last one, I was surprised at how much gunplay and physical action Woodley got to participate in, and it looks like she spent the last year getting herself into perfect kick-ass shape, giving her a little more of an edge.

Despite a change in directors (with Robert Schwentke replacing Neil Burger) INSURGENT has perfect continuity with the last one, although that’s both good and bad. It’s consistent, but the movie suffers from all the same problems the last one did, and it’s a shame that Schwentke wasn’t able to give this the boost of energy it really needed to go from being a YA phenomenon to a true crossover smash like HUNGER GAMES.  The series is still too clunky, with about half-a-dozen dream sequences, and another long set-piece that relies on Tris completing a series of simulations (virtually the entire climax).

Still, fans of the first one will probably like this too, and at least the oodles of exposition that plagued the first film are replaced by a slightly more action-centric plot, even though the film frequently lapses into long stretches without much going on. The Woodley-James dynamic is where the movies have gone really wrong, but you can’t blame either of them. The problem is they both look too mature to be spouting off the kind of lovey-dovey teen babble they’re shackled with here – something that’s especially a problem from James, who’s now in his thirties and looks it.

 

Like in the first one, the producers have been able to cherry-pick their supporting players from some of the finest character-actors in Hollywood, not that any of them are given much to do. Octavia Spencer is gone from the film far too early, while Watts isn’t allowed any time at all to give her character any kind of pathos over having abandoned Four as a child. It’s clear they’re building her up to be a villain later on in the series, although a little more ambiguity would have made it a lot less predictable. As for Kate Winslet, she’s one-note, playing the sneering villain, and for my money, any time Winslet comes off bland the material is clearly lacking.

 

One thing that’s interesting is that in the year since DIVERGENT hit theaters, co-stars Miles Teller and Ansel Elgort have become big stars. Elgort is still sidelined in the weak-brother part, but Teller milks his screen time for all it’s worth, giving the film a least a little bit of a boost. One bit, where he interrupts a particularly insipid exchange between James and Woodley is especially fresh. In a handful of scenes he gives the movie the only real edge it has.

Like a lot of other YA franchises, THE DIVERGENT SERIES is ultimately critic-proof. It’s certainly much better than TWILIGHT, and Woodley is quite charming and likable. She elevates the material, and if this series makes her big enough that she can take on more interesting parts, than I’m all for it. Teens and young adults will probably enjoy this, but if you were unimpressed by the last one this won’t change your mind.

Source: JoBlo.com

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