Dave White
Insurgent Review

Dave's Rating:

2.0

The same keeps same-ing its sameness.

The tortured factions with the clunky names are back, and they're more upset than ever to be stuck in their generic, crumbling, future dystopia, where there are no showers, or places to sleep that aren't treehouses or jagged slabs of broken concrete. Those factions: Abnegation (selfless and easily conquered), Erudite (intelligent jerks), Amity (nice hippies who wear flax), Candor (smug truth-speakers) and Dauntless (fighting, jumping, shouting), are currently barreling toward a monstrous civil war, thanks to supervillain Jeanine (Kate Winslet) the power maven obsessed with order, control, and gleaming white living spaces.

Only Tris (Shailene Woodley), the Special One who chose to be a part of Dauntless, but who is actually Divergent -- testing strongly in all five of the factions' qualities -- can fix this mess. Along with Four (Theo James), whom she loves, Tris and the other Dauntless defectors know that killing Jeanine is key to their victory. Jeanine has other plans, namely killing Tris first, but only after capturing her and forcing her Divergent powers into the service of cracking open a locked box with a mysterious message hidden inside. This involves a lot of glowering.

In the first film, Tris spent the bulk of her time struggling to build her strength, knowing that the leadership of the coming rebellion was all on her. Woodley's acting superpower involves eliciting empathy, and audiences meeting Tris for the first time were won over, as she provoked a sense of worried hope that she'd rise to the task and not break.

Tris' competency settled this time around, all that's left to do is sit back and watch her power-march through a variety of incredibly dangerous scenarios that threaten to do her in. The movie asks the viewer to believe that Tris may fail, that she may need to sacrifice her very life for the cause. But we all know she's going to be fine, and nothing in the script (from Brian Duffield, Akiva Goldsman, and Mark Bomback) convinces otherwise.

Director Robert Schwentke, who also helmed non-entities like R.I.P.D. and The Time Traveler's Wife, seems entirely free of a point of view. But he also seems to know that he's in charge of navigating a spinning wheel, a project that exists to serve as the bridge to Allegiant (to be released in two parts, because Hollywood already is a dystopian society). There's a general holding back of the good stuff, both narratively and visually, as though there's only so much to go around.

Sequences where Tris must navigate and survive various simulated challenges -- notably keeping her balance atop a huge flaming concrete box as it spins in green-screen space -- break the colorless monotony, but only in fits and starts. This is a Mad Lib of a movie, names and places slugglishly dropped into the YA blanks. It's also an example of the conformity that Young Adult Fiction has built an entire subgenre preaching against, an exercise in getting paid on the way to another rote victory for The Brave, Different Kids Who Took A Stand. The lesson, then, for all real life brave, different kids, is that brave and different may be nice, but neither will get your project greenlighted.

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