Insurgent has good acting, great action, even better special effects, but still goes wrong.  Find out why in Cinema Siren’s review:


Here is the written transcript:

We get it.  The future is awful.  It seems like no matter what Young Adult dystopia we turn to, we who survive are all separated into groups to better serve the evil state.  In the case of the Divergent series, and this week’s new release The Divergent Series: Insurgent (yes, that is the official title), it’s 5 factions.  Abnegation, Amity, Erudite, Dauntless, and Candor. Can we as an audience add a Frustration faction to that list?  A movie that has good acting, great action, and amazing special effects is derailed by a pervasive darkness and a lack of divergence in character development or multi-dimensionality.

Divergents Tris Prior (Shailene Woodley) and her beau Four (Theo James) are on the run with Tris’s brother, Caleb (Ansel Elgort) and former adversary Peter (Miles Teller), whose moral compass is on the fritz.  They are being hunted by Jeanine Matthews (Kate Winslet) leader of the Erudite faction, who wants to decimate all who show even a spark of divergence.  Those on the run find solace with the Amity faction, led by Johanna (Octavia Spencer), but at the first hint of danger, Peter switches allegiance, and the rest continue running.   They encounter a huge group of Factionless, led by Four’s surprise relative, Evelyn (Naomi Watts, nearly unrecognizable as a brunette).  Jeanine discovers a mysterious box, and she believes she requires experimentation on Tris to open its secrets.  For Tris, that means sims, or simulations, that are a series of dangerous, and highly unpleasant hallucinatory trials proving various faction-related abilities, ensue.

Robert Schwentke of RED and The Time Traveler’s Wife takes the directorial reigns in this second installment, where far less exposition is necessary, so that time can be used in scenes of guerrilla warfare and Tris’s numerous action-heavy head trips.

Kate Winslet is working below her pay grade but she makes a worthy corporate ice-queen villain.  Shailene Woodley shows she has enough actor’s commitment to make her character believable and deserving of empathy.  Theo James as Four largely just does double duty as eye candy and heroic gun-toting muscle, but he can act when required.  The most entertaining character is Peter, because he can’t seem to decide what side he’s on, which makes him more complex and his actions less predictable.

The effects are impressive and the 3D is put to good use, notably in a set piece where Tris is leaping through the sky into a fiery floating building.  Derivations from The Matrix and Inception are in plentiful supply, but the sequences relying on special effects keep the audience’s interest, especially since advancements are happening so fast now that each new movie benefits.

The biggest problem with this movie is, with the exception of occasional snark spouted by the conflicted Peter,  Insurgent is relentlessly dark and completely humorless.  At least in The Hunger Games you get the occasional respite offered by the colorful flamboyance of Effie, Caesar, and Haymitch.

Probably because most of the characters are so one dimensional, payoffs in the story are entirely devoid of surprise.  What’s left to savor is the plethora of violence, the committed acting, the great action sequences, and the special effects, but certainly not the various characters.  Maybe we are all getting Dystopia Fatigue, but I need more to care about if i’m going to wade into this level of despair.

There’s nothing wrong with enjoying 2 star movies.  Think of the number of people who love action cheese like Point Break, Broken Arrow, and Cliffhanger.   Insurgent is a bit better than those because of its effects and actors like Kate Winslet, Shailene Woodley, and Miles Teller bringing their A game, however much they could have phoned this in.  There are plenty of people who will love this movie, not least for the kick-assery offered up by women.  Just leave your expectations outside the theater and you’ll have a good, albeit bummer 2 hour distraction.

2 out of 5 stars [cinemasiren]