Shai­lene Wood­ley takes on a sys­tem that keeps ev­ery­one in their place in the sec­ond in­stal­ment of the Di­ver­gent se­ries.

SFX: The Sci-Fi and Fantasy Magazine - - Contents - Richard Ed­wards

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.

And lo the se­cret liquorice sup­ply was dis­cov­ered.

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