Some of these Young Adult adaptations are beginning to blur for me since they all seem to be the same bloody thing. The Divergent Series in particular seems to be the result of several YA series and post-apocalyptic fiction playing Ookie Cookie (look it up) on top of The Hunger Games.
For those of you just joining us, Insurgent is the sequel to Divergent (I’m sure the author thought she was being very clever with her titles), where we find a post-apocalyptic Chicago separated into the caste system of Gryfindor, Hufflepu…oh wait, I mean five random names the author pulled from a dictionary to designate the farmers, lawyers, army, scientists, and politicians. We mostly follow the exploits of Tris Prior (Shailene Woodley), a Divergent, or someone who can be part of multiple factions at once. Because she is Divergent, she and other like her are deemed to be dangerous and must be killed immediately otherwise the high school clique system will fall apart on them.
This being a YA story, naturally the clique system starts falling apart due to actions of Tris in the last movie. This movie deals with the aftermath where the main villain Jeanne, played by Kate Winslet, starts abducting Divergents to open a box that will say…something. Honestly, she’s not 100% sure what’s inside but because Tris’ mom was willing to die for it in the last movie, it sure as shit must be important. And so Tris must put a stop to her plans with her hunky and acting-challenged boyfriend Four (yes that’s his name) and her brother, Caleb (played by Ansel Elgort, who also played Shailene Woodley’s boyfriend in The Fault in Our Stars…awkward).
Sweet Christmas this plot is convoluted as hell. Now it’s more like a simple story, but the twists and turns come from characters giving you a phone book-worth of exposition to explain all the plot developments. The problem with this exposition is that it’s delivered in the most boring ass way: telling without a whole lot of showing. If you want to see this done right, then look no further than the Harry Potter series, which introduced the rules and laws of magic to its audience through clever dialogue and a healthy does of humor. Cleverness and humor, unfortunately, are in painfully short supply in the Divergent Universe.
Everyone is so goddamn miserable in this movie. Hardly anyone cracks a joke, and the only one who does it is a scheming, conniving asshole played by Miles Teller, who really isn’t that funny. Plus he has to do a bunch of backstabbing plans throughout this mess, and you never figure out WHY he does any of it. Of course I need not rag on him, when I can get plenty of mileage on Theo James.
This guy has the acting range of a potato. He’s also not a very physically-adept actor so you don’t even get to see him do interesting stunts. One wonders why the producers feel the need to pick this guy as the main character’s love interest when there’s plenty of good looking guys out there who can do the exact same thing and can freaking act.
The film is loaded with highly qualified actors like Maggie Q, Naomi Watts, Kate Winslet, Ashley Judd, and Daniel Dae Kim who appear far too briefly and must support a cast of untalented young actors. But I’ll give credit where credit is due and say Shailene Woodley does try to elevate this material. She tries to get every emotion she can throughout this movie and she genuinely feels like the only young star out of this cast who’ll go on to do more interesting things.
But try as she might, she can’t perform miracles on this shit script. The dialogue is so painful to hear and it just slogs along from place to place without ever ramping up tension. I’m amazed that anyone would ever give a shit about any character in this movie because I didn’t know any of them! They’re all one-dimensional cardboard cut-outs pantomiming this play.
The other problem is that it rips off plot points and developments that only served to remind me of far better films. You get the disruption of a tight order established after a cataclysm from The Giver and Equilibrium. An overly convoluted plan from a higher power that came up with the origin for all the world’s problems from The Maze Runner and The Mortal Instruments. The shoehorned love plot line from Twilight and The Hunger Games. And of course you get “The One” storyline of how the main character is the “most important person ever” and is “omg so special, you guys” from Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, and The Maze Runner.
Seriously, this is the very definition of GENERIC. There is nothing special about this series, and even less so with this movie. I could not give one ounce of a shit about any character in this film or feel bad when one character dies or gets mad at another for someone’s death. Further not helping matters is that there is nothing interesting on screen happening. No cool visual effect, no insane stunt, nothing. I only cared about Miles Teller’s character because he actually showed a spark of life in this 2 hour slog by playing a complete asshole.
For those who are huge fans of this series, rent this. There’s nothing on screen that I could recommend to see in theater. I was bored half the time watching this thing, and I was ready to hit Some Ol’ Bullshit on this. But given that Shailene Woodley was genuinely trying and I’ll give any fiction credit for making a woman main character. But that’s only enough for me to not despise it. Believe me, I’ve seen far, FAR worse this year. So in the grand scheme of things, this boils down to a…
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