Basically, if you read my review of Divergent from last year, a lot of the criticisms still apply to its sequel, Insurgent. There is a point in the film where Tris (Shailene Woodley) literally turns to Four (Theo James) and says, “I know this doesn’t make any sense.” Truer words were never spoken, sweetheart.
After escaping the evil Jeanine (Kate Winslet) at the end of the last film, Tris and Four, along with her brother Caleb (Ansel Elgort), Four’s father, Marcus (Ray Stevenson), and turncoat Peter (Miles Teller), have found refuge with Amity, led by Johanna (Octavia Spencer). Johanna knows who these fugitives are, but the other members of the faction never question who they are or where they came from—it must be because they’re just so darn nice in Amity. Of course, it doesn’t take long for Jeanine’s thugs Eric (Jai Courtney) and Max (Mekhi Phifer) to show up and crackdown on any possible divergent individuals hiding there. Jeanine has found a box in (of course) Tris’ old home at Abnegation, which is supposed to contain a message from the founders of their city. Unfortunately for Jeanine, only a divergent can open the box. I began to suspect that Jeanine shouldn’t have been the leader of Erudite (the smart faction) since it took her 45 minutes to an hour into the film to put two and two together and figure out that Tris was the only one who could open the box. Meanwhile, Four and Tris hide out with the Factionless, led by Four’s deadbeat mother, Evelyn (Naomi Watts). Evelyn wants to rise up against the government, but Four doesn’t trust her and he takes Tris to Candor where the rest of the “good” Dauntless survivors are hiding out in plain sight—remember, “none of this makes sense.” While at Candor, Tris and Four take their truth serum to prove that they did not launch the offensive on Abnegation as Jeanine charges. However, Tris turns herself in once Jeanine starts killing people remotely (don’t ask). Then they stick Tris in The Matrix where she faces simulations from all the factions in order to open the box. She must have forgotten she was divergent, though, because she actually has a hard time with them as opposed to the last movie where she knew “this isn’t real” and actually had to fake having a hard time with it in order to keep the truth about her hidden. The box is eventually opened and the world the factions knew is revealed to be a lie. Cue the next movie.
Once again, the biggest issue with these films is that the world of the factions makes zero sense. Now, with the revelation at the end, you start to see why, but then the reason why the factions exist in the first place doesn’t really make sense either. Some of the things I predicted in my last review—I’ve never read the novels—did come to pass in this film, so gold star for me. It didn’t make me like the story any more. There are elements here that could be a good story, but the whole thing is too derivative and built on convenience for me to care.
I like the chemistry between Woodley and James, but the script doesn’t give them anything interesting to do. Tris mopes around most of the film, feeling like the deaths of her parents are on her hands as well as the death of Will (Ben Lloyd-Hughes), which IS on her hands. However, last I checked the people in Dauntless were supposed to be soldiers, i.e. trained killers. Yes, Will was brainwashed when he was shooting at her in the last movie, but what was she supposed to do, just take it? This is ultimately the problem with Dauntless as a concept. The explanation is that they are the city’s soldiers protecting the citizens from…nothing, I guess, but they are also the police. While today’s police departments are indeed becoming more and more militarized, they are still not soldiers. Police are trained to protect, while soldiers are trained to fight wars—two different things that this movie is telling me are the same. So, that being said, the thing that frustrated me the most in this film was that every person who caused the heroes trouble throughout, were at the heroes’ mercy at one point or another in the first movie. Tris isn’t allowed to blurt out, “We need to kill Jeanine,” in the first 10 minutes of the film when she had a knife to the woman’s throat in the last 10 minutes of the first one. These people are, for all intents and purposes, in a war and in a war, soldiers kill. Tris didn’t feel bad about all the random dudes she had to shoot in the first film, but I guess she just starts getting cold feet when she knows the person’s name. You can make the “heroes don’t kill” argument, but again, Dauntless are supposed to be soldiers and soldiers kill. If she was an Amity and learning that she has some Dauntless traits, I’d believe all her hesitation. In fact, her former life as Abnegation actually works against her when killing Jeanine would really be for the good of all.
I like Shailene Woodley a lot, but she is no action star. Her screaming and high-pitched grunting as she tried to beat the simulation got really annoying. Also, Tris doesn’t really do anything. Yes, she gives herself up to the enemy, but she doesn’t even really know why or what they want from her. Then, when she gets there, she starts fighting everybody. This story would have worked much better if they took this sweet girl and made her into a killer, but when she joined the group that is built to kill, it kind of is a foregone conclusion. I guess this movie is her two-hour buyer’s remorse. Theo James is fine as Four, but again, the story isn’t interesting enough for me to really get behind him. Teller is good as the smug Peter, but he started to feel a lot like Mac (Ray Winstone) from Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Again, he’s just a plot device, not a character, so ultimately, you can’t get invested in him. Winslet is suitably evil as Jeanine, but she basically conforms to type by the end of the film. It would have been more interesting if she went along with what the Founders wanted, but alas, when you rip off everything else, it’s hard to be original.
Overall, the Divergent films, while they look pretty, are a big waste of time. My interest in this film plummeted in the first ten minutes and then I spent the rest of the film laughing at just how dumb it was. The world is impossible to buy into and that makes the audience not care about what’s going on. Of course, now I’m invested in two movies and I kind of want to know what happens next, though I’m sure it will be terrible.