A Review by: Jeff Turner
Dir: Robert Schwentke
Written by: Brian Duffield, Akiva Goldsman, Mark Bomback.
Produced by: Red Wagon Entertainment, Mandeville Films, Paragon Studios, Summit Entertainment
Starring: Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Miles Teller, Kate Winslet, Naomi Watts, Ansel Elgort, Maggie Q, Octavia Spencer, Daniel Dae Kim, Zoe Kravitz, Ray Stevenson, Jai Courtney.
The DIVERGENT movies have worked for me for some reason thus far. The message is nothing new, a promotion of individuality in a world that prohibits it while at the same time the movie promoting this is whoring themselves out commercially. THE HUNGER GAMES experimented with a lot of the same ideas. These movies are imperfect to be certain, but what I think has worked has been some vibrant direction, energetic action scenes, entertaining visuals, and good acting.
We see Tris (Shailene Woodley) where we last left her; on the run from Jeanine Matthews (Kate Winslet). She has to rally the faction-less along with the factions that aren’t invested in Jeanine’s witchhunt. There is a mysterious box that Jeanine requires a Divergent to open; and their game of cat and mouse eventually moves to confrontation.
Shailene Woodley dominates this film. She gives Tris the sense of bravery that INSURGENT needs. Without her, the film would be liable to sink like a stone. She continues to make a good case for her becoming a big star. Miles Teller, fresh off the excellent WHIPLASH, improves on his mediocre performance in the first film, delivering a turn with a lot of energy and almost stealing the movie away from Woodley. The rest of the acting ranges from mediocre to wooden. Like in the first film; many members of the ensemble cast seem overqualified. Amongst these performances include Octavia Spencer as the leader of Amity. She doesn’t really do anything and is only in the film for maybe 5 minutes. Octavia Spencer has put passion into roles before, but not here.
For all the chemistry that Shailene Woodley and Miles Teller have; and they do have quite a bit of chemistry, she has a stunning lack of chemistry with Theo James, the male lead. He might be fine in other movies, its not easy to be charismatic in blockbuster fare; but he is mediocre at best here. A quick rewrite and Peter, Miles Teller’s character could become the main love interest (its not like INSURGENT is sticking to the source material anyway).
There are plenty aspects of the plot that could stand to have more explanation, which was a caveat of THE HUNGER GAMES franchise as well. I don’t know how these Young Adult franchises are going to sustain themselves for people who haven’t read the books (which, in the case of the DIVERGENT films) would be me. The ending, to evade spoiling, could be picked apart with relative ease. I rolled with it, but I don’t know how they’re going to handle the next installment. I have a feeling this series could rise above with a slightly better screenwriter, but I thought this was flick was alright. If you like to see films in 3D, I saw a lot of shots here that would look good in that format, but if not you can wait to rent it, like the first one.