Last year when Divergent was released, I was a heavy skeptic. The premise of a post-apocalyptic Chicago that separates its citizens into personality types and shuns those who don’t conform, just didn’t seem that interesting to me. But the movie, based on a young adult book series, ended up being a pleasant surprise. Tonally like The Giver with a dash of Hunger Games action, I left the theater feeling optimistic about the series even if the first movie had meager production value and a head scratcher ending.
This year’s follow up, Insurgent, picks up with its lead heroes Tris Prior (Shailene Woodley) and Four (Theo James) on the run from Jeanine Matthews (Kate Winslet). Jeanine is hunting Divergents (those who fit into every societal category and are therefore dangerous to the system) so that she can unlock a secret box leftover by the society’s founders. Meanwhile, Four’s long lost mother (Naomi Watts) is looking to form an army between the broken factions (the Selfess and the Brave) and the factionless in hopes of seizing power from Jeanine.
If you think that summary was convoluted, you might want to avoid this movie or see it multiple times to actually grasp everything. The film is incomprehensible without having seen the previous installment, and even if you have, things may be murky if you haven’t watched it recently. Much like in the previous movie, little is done to make sure you understand what the five factions are and why they’re significant. But being complicated isn’t this movie’s prime issue. The constant plot holes and wandering narrative are.
I mentioned plot holes in my review of Divergent last year, but I let them slide. Maybe I shouldn’t have, because it’s as if Director Robert Schwentke (RIPD, Red) decided it was ok to never explain anything. With nearly every scene, something happens that doesn’t make any sense or something takes place that seems like it will fall into place later but is never given clarity. Then there are several characters, some old and some new, who barely get screen time despite having the potential to be very influential to the plot.
Overall, the film isn’t nearly interesting enough to overcome the sloppy holes in the narrative. The promos tease Matrix-style sequences and loads of action, but none of the stakes seem nearly as high as the film makes them appear; For instance, Tris must pass simulated tests designed for each faction or she’ll die, but four of the five tests can be passed with simple common sense and the only one that isn’t is completed first. I’ve never read any of the books in Veronica Roth’s Divergent series. I want to now. Not because I’m intrigued by these stories, but because I need to see if they make more sense on paper.
FINAL GRADE: C