Film review: Insurgent
There’s a fine line in cinema between originality, homage, and just being a bit of a copy-cat. There’s an equally fine line between a welcome addition of a new film to a particular genre, and adding another film to a genre that’s already over-stayed its welcome. We had The Hunger Games. We had Ender’s Game. We had The Maze Runner. I don’t know whether we really needed the Divergent series as another film in the already bloated “teenager saves the world in a horribly bleak future” genre.Of course, the first Divergent film grossed over US$200 million, and so it follows that we were going to be given the sequel: there’s money to be made in young adult dystopias.
The Divergent Series: Insurgent picks up where Divergent left off. Tris (Shailene Woodley), Four (Theo James), Peter (Miles Teller), and Caleb (Ansel Elgort) are on the run after managing to stop Jeanine (Kate Winslet) from completely taking over the city. They hide out first in the Amity faction, and then Tris, Four, and Caleb flee Amity to join the Factionless (who are led by – who else? – Four’s long-lost mother).
After a while, Tris and Four go to the Candour faction, where they prove that Jeanine is out to take over the city. Things all come to a head when Tris hands herself over to Jeanine – Jeanine performs a series of tests and experiments on Tris, and reveals that the people living in the city aren’t the only people alive on Earth after all. This film is generic and predictable. There aren’t any real plot surprises, and the script isn’t just a little cheesy – it’s an entire cheese shop. The film plods along, moving from the dull and derivative to the tedious and trite, and there just isn’t anything here to distinguish it from the countless other young adult common or garden variety post-apocalyptic dystopian bits of cinema.
Divergent certainly isn’t The Hunger Games. At least with that series, we got Jennifer Lawrence. With Divergent, we’ve only been given a barely stifled yawn. That said, some of the performances in Divergent aren’t too bad – Woodley is alright (although the constant teenage angst wears thin very quickly), and Theo James is believable as the warrior-turned-collaborator. Miles Teller should be quite pleased with his portrayal of Peter Hayes – his snide expressions and sneering voice made that character come alive. Winslet, though, is disappointing: she just couldn’t convince as the cold-hearted dictatorial Jeanine.
As a series, there doesn’t seem to be anything really to distinguish Divergent from the rest of the young-adult dystopias. The first film wasn’t as clever as The Hunger Games and played like a poor man’s version of Ender’s Game. In this second film, the Divergent series takes a stumbling step backwards. It might well be a fairly faithful adaptation of the book, but it’s not much of a movie. Insurgent should please its existing fan base, but good cinema it ain’t. 1.5 stars/5
By Michael Tarry
21 March 2015
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