Monday, 30 March 2015

The Divergent Series: Insurgent (2015)

Insurgent poster.jpg
Rebel Without an Identity

Director: Robert Schwentke
Running Time: 119 Minutes
Starring: Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Kate Winslet, Ansel Elgort, Miles Teller, Jai Courtney, Naomi Watts

Fresh off Hollywood's YA craze, Divergent stormed into theatres with a great ensemble cast and two-thirds of a good film. While the sequel brings back the first aspect, the same can't be said for the second.

3 days have passed since the events of Divergent's finale. Tris and Four (Woodley and James) are laying low in Amity faction, hiding from the government's armed forces. Meanwhile, Jeanine (Winslet) is rounding up Divergents, looking for the one who can open a mysterious box.

After Divergent director Neil Burger failed to return, the reins of the franchise were passed on to Robert Schwentke. Granted, the proceedings move at an adequate pace, but the RED director is an unfortunate choice.

Any general sense of excitement, which was beneficial to the first film, has seemingly vanished here. In its place is an overuse of pointless dream sequences, and the needless slowing down of scenes where the outcome is blindingly obvious.

It's clear that the cast are trying, with Shailene Woodley and Kate Winslet's efforts coming off as the most sincere. The problem is how underserving Akiva Goldsman's scriptwork proves to be. The relationship between Tris and Four remains underdeveloped, while the majority of side characters are largely ignored. Heck, Ray Stevenson and Maggie Q seem lucky to get what little lines they have.

Ansel Elgort unfortunately comes off the worst. His character, Caleb, is left to awkwardly bumble through the film, while his sister and her boyfriend get caught up in more interesting moments. This continues, until he makes an illogical decision that comes off as massively underdeveloped. Any attempts at a reasonable build-up to this baffling moment is non-existent, resulting in little more than infuriation for viewers.

The debate over the better meal raged on.

Goldsman's script holds plenty of revelations, but has them be announced in problematic ways. Take one scene, where the protagonists engage in a conflict with Factionless. After an obligatory fight scene, Four manages to prevent this from escalating any further by declaring a revelation. This begs the question, why not open with that revelation? He could have prevented a fight from breaking out in the first place, so why didn't he? It's just plain lazy.

Bizarrely, while many revelations are needlessly dragged out, Schwentke jarringly speeds past other revelations of importance. Instead of getting scenes which show a character being captured, or a dangerous item being disarmed, we're merely shown the aftermath. As such, these moments of significance are undermined, in order to set-up another scene.

Despite a year to work out the kinks in the franchise, Schwentke manages to carry over one major negative from the prior film. We're halfway into this franchise, and Divergent remains unable to set itself apart from its competitors. There's very little here which stands out from other Young Adult adaptations, remaining enslaved to formula and generic story beats that many others have done to better effect. The result feels lazy, and comes off as largely dull.

The Divergent Series: Insurgent takes any goodwill left from its predecessor, and crushes it into the ground. The inability to stand apart remains this films biggest weakness, which is ironic considering the protagonist aims to do just that.

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