Shailene Woodley takes on a system that keeps everyone in their place in the second instalment of the Divergent series.
Release Date: 3 August
2015 | 12 | 3D Blu- ray/ Blu- ray/ DVD Director: Robert Schwentke Cast: Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Kate Winslet, Miles Teller, Naomi Watts, Jai Courtney
The first sequel is usually the point where you find out whether a franchise has legs. Series openers are, almost by definition, cinematic Darwinism in action: the successful will be granted a follow- up, while the flops will be doomed to an eternity of hanging story threads and repeated screenings on some godforsaken digital channel.
The first sequel is different. By the time a property’s got that far, it’s clear that the studio has enough faith in the saga to bankroll it, yet it’s still impossible to know whether there’s enough substance to the story to sustain another movie, or two, or three. Even if – as is the case with the Divergent series – you’re adapting a phenomenally successful trilogy of YA novels.
While Insurgent doesn’t quite set the world on fire, it does justify the continuation of the saga by doing everything a decent sci- fi sequel should. This is an organic extension of Divergent that opens out its world and puts its characters in new situations and jeopardy. It’s anything but a retread, and also a big improvement on its promising but distinctly average predecessor, with more confidence, a better story and considerably more brains.
Insurgent picks up exactly where the first movie left off, with heroic Beatrice “Tris” Prior ( Shailene Woodley), mentor/ boyfriend Four ( Theo James), brother Caleb ( Ansel Elgort), and duplicitous hanger- on Peter ( Miles Teller) on the run from the goons of Big Bad Jeanine ( Kate Winslet). Everybody in this futuristic world is still conveniently assigned to a “faction” based on their personality – Abnegation ( the Selfless), Dauntless ( the brave), Erudite ( the intelligent), Amity ( the peaceful) or Candor ( the honest) – though Tris and Four’s Divergent status ( they exhibit characteristics of all five groups) has turned them into public enemy numbers one and two.
One of the biggest issues with Divergent was the implausibility of the faction system; the idea of a future society finding salvation by separating every personality in existence into one of five types – where everyone will share similar hopes and dreams, and even want to pull on the same togs every morning – is arguably an even harder pill to swallow than the one that reveals humanity is living in The Matrix. That problem isn’t really solved here. So while there’s undoubtedly some appeal in seeing more of author Veronica Roth’s world, Tris and Four’s stay in Amity feels like a trip to a Witness theme park, while Candor’s stylised two- tone colour scheme makes its inhabitants look like members of the world’s biggest Kraftwerk tribute band. This is production/ costume design on an overly simplistic level, a clunky metaphor that tries to do the heavy lifting on the emotional subtext, and turns some of the supporting players into cartoons. ( Thankfully we don’t spend nearly as much time with either faction as we did with the Starlight Express Dauntless gang in the first movie – not quite enough for them to outstay their welcome.)
Yet hiding behind the faction nonsense, there is a compelling tale of rebellion simmering below the surface, a sense that the status quo really does need overthrowing. Jeanine’s obsessive crusade to hunt down every last Divergent – a group she fears because she can’t control them – is actually quite convincing. And her obsession with finding someone who can open a box left behind by the city founders, containing secrets of its existence ( a clever McGuffin that didn’t appear in the book), is the force that drives the narrative. Indeed, it’s in the final act – where chosen one Tris is plunged into a series of virtual tests to unlock the cube – that director Robert Schwentke really comes into his own, with the slightly underwhelming action beats of the
Insurgent doesn’t set the world on fire, but it justifies the continuation of the saga
“real” world replaced by some genuinely inventive sequences.
As in the first movie, the real star of the show is Shailene Woodley as Tris. The Divergent movies may lack the visceral punch of The Hunger Games ( a saga they’re destined to spend forever being compared with), yet Woodley makes Tris a much warmer centrepoint for her story than the emotionally distant Katniss Everdeen. She’s a hero who doesn’t have all the answers, at times naive, at others brave and decisive, with an emotional rawness that grounds the character as she gradually accepts her destiny.
Somewhat implausibly, the game- changer of a denouement even makes the whole ludicrous notion of factions ( almost) make sense. Which bodes well for the future, because as has become the tradition since Harry
Potter and The Hunger Games, final novel Allegiant will be split into two parts. Insurgent gets enough right to hint at a lot of potential; if this upward trajectory continues, part four could just be a classic.
Extras: Divergent universe completists should head for the Blu- ray ( available in both 3D and 2D versions), as that’s where most of the extras can be found. The biggies are feature- length behind- the- scenes piece “Insurgent Locked” ( 111 minutes) and an audio commentary from husband- and- wife producer team Douglas Wick and Lucy Fisher ( the big- screen guardians of the saga). You also get five short featurettes ( 18 minutes) on subjects such as the cast, the train fight sequence and adapting the book, and a “marketing gallery”. DVD buyers will have to make do with the commentary, one of the featurettes ( five minutes) and the gallery.
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