VFX plus YA equal zzzzzzzzzz

MOVIE REVIEW- Futuristic visuals can’t overcome the forced teenage romance in “The Divergent Series: Insurgent.”

By Amanda Cavarretta, Copy Editor 

While the first film in the “Divergent” series started to pull viewers into author Veronica Roth’s dystopian, fragmented, future-Chicago, the sequel fails to uncover any interesting new layers.

Picking up where “Divergent” ended, “The Divergent Series: Insurgent” finds protagonist Tris (Shailene Woodley), hunky Four (Theo James), Tris’ spineless brother Caleb (Ansel Elgort), and Tris’ training-camp antagonist Peter (Miles Teller) fugitives from the divided society taken over by the “faction” Erudite and its evil, evil (but foxy) leader Jeanine (Kate Winslet). Trying to find out what Tris’ parents died to protect, Tris and Four seek allies through the rubble of Chicago to help take down Jeanine.

To prep herself for a physical and emotional battle, Tris chops her hair to establish that she means business. I guess she wasn’t serious before?

The plot is formulaic and foreseeable. There isn’t one point in the movie that puts you on the edge of your seat. “Insurgent” feels dragged out, enlivened only by the next futuristic battle scene.

At times, there were laughs at the press screening because of how stupid the dialogue was. It wasn’t even memorably stupid, just plain dumb.  The chemistry between Tris and Four seems forced and corny. It’s hard to believe Four is in love with Tris – being with her seems more like a chore to him. Maybe if she didn’t spend half the movie crying, a connection could have been made.

“Divergent” is often categorized as typical Young Adult fare, even a ripoff of “Hunger Games,” but the most inescapable parallel is to “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.”

In Roth’s fictional world, people are placed into “factions” based on personality types. The selfless, like TMNT’s Leonardo, belong in Abnegation. Peaceful ones end up frolicking around a tree with Amity. One expects Michelangelo to join in. Dauntless is the group for the brave, a la Raphael. Erudite is for the smartypants. Hello, Donatello! Candor is for the honest, or Roth’s version of honesty, which reads more like Asperger’s. To them, the truth is black and white and so is their chic clothing. Maybe Splinter? Speaking of rats, those who don’t fit into one of these categories – well, you’re factionless, racking with the rodents in the rubble. The “divergent” are the ones who carry multiple traits and pose a threat to society because they cannot be controlled. Because it makes perfect sense that human beings have only one character trait, so society should be built on that concept.

The upside to this film is the impressive visual-effects package. With a reportedly $85-million budget, the filmmakers occasionally succeed in making viewers feel as if they are living in a simulation. The 3D is well used. With wide and deep camera shots, it sometimes feels as if you are flying or jumping over a building.

While the teenage Dream Team have a few entertaining battle scenes as they fight off Jeanine and her brainwashed army, don’t expect much from this predictable YA entry. When the truth is unlocked, the movie will leave off exactly where you thought it would. 

2 out of 5 stars

“The Divergent Series: Insurgent” opens Friday, March 20 nationwide. 

Rated PG-13; for intense violence and action throughout, some sensuality, thematic elements and brief language. Running time: 118 minutes 

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