Gangs and non-gang gangs
Directed by Robert Schwentke. Starring Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Miles Teller, Jai Courtney, Kate Winslet, Ansel Elgort, Zoë Kravitz, Naomi Watts. 12A cert, gen release, 118 min Every now and then, as if buzzed by reality while in a futuristic simulation, you realise you’re watching a cultural phenomenon that, some decades hence, will be identified as a key sprig in our era’s feeble zeitgeist.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that Exigent or Astringent or Contingent – or whatever this sequel to
Divergent is called – is in any way good. In fact, it’s pretty useless, but, as a distillation of all that’s most ordinary about contemporary young adult science fiction, it could hardly be bettered.
Effulgent is, at least, less weighed down by anthropological scene-setting than was the first episode. As you will recall, in a dystopian Chicago, survivors of an apparent apocalypse are, at adulthood, divided into cadres defined by key personality traits: Candor, Dauntless, Erudite and so forth. A young woman named Tris (Shailene Woodley) is diagnosed as being in none of the categories and, now officially “Divergent”, lights out for the territories with other free spirits.
The zippier second part finds the group meeting up with Naomi Watts’s bad-ass revolutionary mama, hopping a train in acceptably gripping fashion and trying to work out why evil Kate Winslet (a Transylvanian Mary Poppins) is so blasted furious all the time.
Nobody in Detergent is anything less than competent. Though I didn’t quite buy the scene where Tris cuts her own hair to the standards of Vidal Sassoon, Woodley confirms that, for all her Bambi flutters, she can flex muscles with the best of them. The film is gratifyingly violent and, insofar as it has a welcome, it doesn’t outstay it.
What really grinds down the spirits is the conservatism of it all. Even those who are not in a gang are in the non-gang gang. Indeed, there seems to be two non-gang gangs: Factionless and Divergent.
Set free, everyone gets the opportunity to mildly spike their hair, wear boot-cut jeans (honestly!), work on their abs and otherwise behave like a middle-class Indianan high-school student from 1998.
Cotangent Part I will be with us in 12 months’ time.
Shailene Woodley as Tris in ‘Insurgent’