On the surface, Insurgent appears to be a substantial upgrade to Divergent. The cast is fleshed out with the likes of Naomi Watts and Octavia Spencer, we’ve got a new director (Robert Schwentke, responsible for The Time Traveller’s Wife and, uh, R.I.P.D.) and we’ve even moved to the third dimension. Visually, we’ve definitely stepped things up a lot, trading the lifelessness of Divergent for a robust aesthetic that looks better: more substantial, more expensive.
Unfortunately the advances are all surface-level. Divergent’s coming-of-age allegory was marred by some unfortunate cultish-Christian subtext, but at least there was some substance beneath its familiar dystopian shell. Insurgent is a hollow husk, cobbling together a story around a tired MacGuffin, a series of “Chosen One” tropes and a couple of arbitrary double-crosses. It’s the kind of story a teenager would construct by mimicking the conventions of her favourite novels, without truly understanding why they resonate. The cast is undeniably impressive (minus Theo James, whose talents don’t extend past his chiselled physique), but save Miles Teller they’re adrift in a muddy stream of shitty dialogue. It’s particularly depressing to watch Kate Winslet delivering line after line of generic nonsense, the light dying in her eyes. Avoid.