Cary, NC — Insurgent is the sequel to last year’s Divergent, a movie that I was surprised to like as much as I did.
A Fan of Similar Movies
Actually, I’m quite a big fan of similar franchises, like The Hunger Games films, which are some of the best and smartest science fiction films in recent memory. I even have a 100% un-ironic love of the Twilight movies. They are pure camp, and I love every second of them.
Divergent fell somewhere in between those two. Not as smart or exciting as The Hunger Games and not as outrageous and silly as Twilight, Divergent still wound up being very entertaining, if overly familiar, thanks in large part to the incredible cast.
Unfortunately, Insurgent squanders what little goodwill its predecessor had by wasting that talented cast and making the over-complicated premise more muddled and confusing.
Woodley Not a Match for Fight Scenes
Front and center for this franchise is star Shailene Woodley, who has been so, so good in films like The Descendants and The Spectacular Now. Woodley has a great screen presence and is able to convey great vulnerability, which she put to great use in Divergent.
That film mainly focused on her character, Tris, discovering where she fit in to this post-apocalyptic setting as well as on a budding romance with a character named Four.
However, in the sequel, there is a much greater focus on action, and Woodley just doesn’t seem comfortable at all dealing with the fight scenes. It also doesn’t help that the script offers nothing new for her character to do, leaving the actress kind of hanging.
Great Cast Wasted on Familiar Story
The rest of the cast doesn’t fare much better either. Miles Teller, who co-starred with Woodley in The Spectacular Now as well as last year’s Oscar nominated Whiplash, probably fares the best.
His character, Peter, is only looking out for himself, and he seems to switch sides every other minute. Teller has a blast with him. He brings much needed levity to the otherwise deadly serious proceedings but, unfortunately, he only pops in the very beginning and the very end of the film.
Winslet, Watts Can’t Save It
Even heavy hitters like Kate Winslet (Titanic, The Reader) and Naomi Watts (Birdman, St. Vincent) are also stranded by the script. Winslet is such a great actress, and this part is a great chance for her to just go for it, chew some scenery and have some fun.
But there is just so little for her character to do here that she is barely in the movie, and when she does show up she looks bored to tears. If the Oscar winning actress isn’t having fun playing the villain, how is the audience supposed to have a good time watching her?
In the end, that is Insurgent’s biggest fault, wasting its impressive and game cast. The rest of the film drowns in its own seriousness and convoluted plot.
It’s a shame too, because I really did have fun with the first film. Skip Insurgent and watch talented stars Woodley and Teller in The Spectacular Now and Whiplash instead.