The only redeeming part of last year’s “Divergent” was how the film took a hard look at a social experiment of dividing people according to their natural virtues. The film, based on the popular young adult novel by Veronica Roth, earned points for its examination of individuality, diversity and expectations.
The character of Tris (Shailene Woodley) served as the lightning rod for those who rejected this caste system. She wasn’t been the strongest female hero to come along, but made a stand for what she believed.
In the sequel, “The Divergent Series: Insurgent,” Tris is reduced to a bystander who occasionally gets to thrash around as part of the never-ending effort to open a box that holds the key to humanity’s future.
Last we saw Tris, she and her hunky sidekick Four (Theo James), foe Peter (Miles Turner) and brother Caleb (Ansel Elgort) were on the run. They end up in a hippie colony (run by a bored Octavia Spencer) where love and peace are all that matter.
Then the screenplay by Brian Duffield, Akiva Goldsman and Mark Bomback deteriorates into a series of efforts to catch Tris because she’s the key to opening the box. The only way it would really matter if they caught her or not is if a better script was hidden inside the container.
The fugitives make their way back to town and end up with the group known as Candor. Except for being a cheesy way for Tris to reveal a dark secret, the meeting with the group run by a very dapper Daniel Dae Kim is a waste of time.
Thrown into the mix is a mysterious woman from Four’s past — played by Naomi Watts — who could either be a help or hindrance for the group.
Director Robert Schwentke (replacing Neil Burger who guided the first film) mounts a couple of big action scenes. Computer technology allows for visuals that are staggeringly amazing. There’s just nothing left when all the dust clears.
The action scenes aren’t enough to distract from a script that is full of holes, illogical actions and a story that takes almost two hours to complete yet only moves things forward a few baby steps. When the big finale comes, it’s no more exciting than a well-made commercial for a cola.
The biggest failing is how the character of Tris is reduced to supporting player. Not only has Tris been stripped of her family, but she also doesn’t seem to have a focus. This character needs to be a leader and it just isn’t there.
Even Theo James and Jai Courtney have more to do than Tris, as the protector and prosecutor. At least their characters remain part of the main story.
Kate Winslet is far more interesting as the single-minded leader who wants to protect her divided world. She’s a good contrast to what Watts brings to the production.
One major complaint with sequels is that they tend to leave the story in mid-thought. That’s not the case with “Insurgent.” The film could serve as a finale, if you don’t have any desire to see the two films that wrap up to the trilogy with “Allegiant: Part 1” and “Part 2.”
The way this series is deteriorating, now is a good time to call it quits.