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26 Mar 2015

Oh, the Agony: The Divergent Series Continues to Bore and Waste Star Power With 'Insurgent'

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Shailene Woodley, Theo James and Ansel Elgort in Insurgent. Shailene Woodley, Theo James and Ansel Elgort in Insurgent.

The Divergent series, aka “Adventures in Hardcore Lethargy,” continues with Insurgent, a film as boring and pointless as its predecessor.

Director Robert Schwentke chooses a lot of gray tones to go with dull dialogue and muddled, straining performances. Shailene Woodley, an actress who is impressive most of the time, simply doesn’t make an intriguing action heroine. The material seems beneath her.

After the oh-so rousing events of the first film, Tris (Woodley) and Four (Theo James) are living in a “faction-free” zone. In this film’s universe, everybody is categorized into a faction: Amity, Abnegation, Erudite, Dauntless, Candor, Flounder and Douchebag. I would say this mess has the worst young-adult fiction premise ever, but I’ve seen the Twilight films, so I would be lying my ass off.

While living amongst the faction-less, Tris and Four have a surprise meeting with Four’s hot mom, Evelyn, played by the incomparable Naomi Watts, one of my all-time-favorite actresses. Watts is totally wasting her time in this crap, but if Kate Winslet can slum in this pigeon spooge, so can Watts. Watts’ appearance is fairly brief in this chapter, but her character figures to be bigger in future installments. In other words, I weep for Watts’ immediate film future.

Tris eventually winds up in the evil grasp of Jeanine (Winslet) again, and she is forced into a simulator that has the film trying to trick the audience into thinking things are really happening. So when Tris is being rescued, or kicking Winslet’s ass, or drinking a Diet Coke, it’s all just a hallucination. The movie spends much of its running time trying to dupe you. I assure you: If you’ve plunked down your green for this cat poo, you’ve already been duped.

One simulation has Tris trying to save her mommy (Ashley Judd, of The Identical and Dolphin Tale 2) from a broken, flying building. We are well aware this simulation isn’t real; after all, it involves a flying building. To say it lacks tension would be an understatement.

Are you noticing the talent I’ve mentioned so far? Woodley, Winslet, Watts (lots of “W” names)—and I haven’t even mentioned the great Miles Teller of Whiplash fame, or Ansel Elgort. Teller and Elgort have both had the privilege of starring with Woodley in much better movies: The Spectacular Now and The Fault in Our Stars, respectively. I was hoping Teller and Elgort would get in a slap-fight over Woodley’s hand in marriage during their scenes together. It would’ve made no sense, but would’ve provided something resembling a pulse in this picture.

It’s hard to watch a talent like Woodley screech and moan her way through this dialogue. She follows in the footsteps of Kristen Stewart as a talented actress who sold out for a young-adult-fiction film series. Jennifer Lawrence has managed to make the equally ridiculous Hunger Games series watchable, but those movies also have Woody Harrelson in an awesome Kurt Cobain wig, so she has somewhat of an unfair advantage.

Taking a cue from the Harry Potter, Twilight and Hunger Games cash cows, the Divergent series will end by splitting the final novel in the book trilogy, Allegiant, into two films. This means we are only halfway through this cinematic hell ride.

The Divergent Series: Insurgent is playing at theaters across the valley.

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