The second film in The Divergent Series juggles stunning visuals with a lackluster story and characters.
I’ve written about this in previous reviews, but I’m a total sucker for adaptations of Young Adult novels. They’re cheesy, melodramatic, and mostly just remind us all of high school in some form. Occasionally we’ll get a series like The Hunger Games that manages to exceeds expectations, but by in large YA films tend to be middle of the road flicks. Last year’s Divergent was one of those films, whose above average cast elevated it to be one of the better films in this genre. Unfortunately it’s sequel, Insurgent, knocks the series down a few notches.
If you never read the books or saw the first film, The Divergent Series follows Tris (Shailene Woodley), a girl in a dystopian future where every teenager is identified as one of five different factions, each of which works together to keep society running. Their world is surrounded by a large wall, separating them from some historic devastation that brought on the need for factions. In this world the only fear the governing authorities have are Divergents – citizens who’s aptitude identifies them as strong in multiple factions. Tris is 100% Divergent, meaning she is strong in every faction within this universe. Naturally this causes issues and hilarity ensues.
While the first film was fairly interesting, with Tris not only trying to hide within one of the most intense factions, but also come to grips with what her Divergent revelation will bring about, the second film provides too much of the same. Both films have certain characters flipping their alliances throughout, and both storylines hinge on Tris passing through a series of trials. Even specific plot beats from main characters essentially repeat themselves. It’s hard to describe more without spoiling too much, but just know that if you’ve seen the first film, you know what you’re in for, only a little less interesting.
The film is visually stunning, and it’s use of 3D only adds to the world and environments created by the filmmakers. That being said, when you really don’t care much about what is going on, it makes it hard to enjoy it too much. Director Robert Schwentke is one of those guys who has directed a handful of films you’ve seen and completely forgotten about, which unfortunately is reflected here.
Thankfully the cast does it’s best to keep the film and characters alive. Woodley is always excellent in any film, and the supporting cast features Miles Teller, Kate Winslet, Ray Stevenson, Naomi Watts, and more. Its unfortunate that the film can’t keep up with this caliber of actors, but their skills do make the film more engaging.
Insurgent is a disappointing sequel. I haven’t read the books, so for all I know, Divergent was the best of the trilogy. Hopefully that isn’t the case, though, and the two-part film finale of the 3rd book can provide some redemption for this group of interesting characters.