I seem to be in the minority in liking last year's Divergent, the first film in this post-apocalyptic young adult novel franchise. While not perfect, there was a lot of fun to be had, despite a goofy set up. The awkwardly titled The Divergent Series: Insurgent is a notably darker followup to the first film, that doesn't quite match the quality of its predecessor. Insurgent picks up soon after the previous film, with Tris (Shailene Woodley), Four (Theo James), Peter (Miles Teller), and Tris' brother Caleb (Ansel Elgort), seeking refuge among Amity, Divergent's hippie agriculture faction. Their leader, Johanna (Octavia Spencer) reluctantly helps them, at least until the remaining Dauntless, led by Eric (Jai Courtney), arrive to look for Divergents. Tris and Four, now fugitives, seek refuge among the "factionless," led by Evelyn, Four's mother, previously believed to be dead.
Jeanine (Kate Winslet) is looking for Divergents so that she can use them to unlock a secret box. This box can only be opened by the most special of Divergents, someone who can complete the challenge posed by simulations based on the attributes of all five factions. She believes the box will contain information about why Divergents should be eradicated.
This is all terribly complex sounding, but it turns out to be not much more interesting or complicated than any other high concept science fiction film. The Divergent series is more action-oriented than Twilight or The Hunger Games, one of the very few things that gives this franchise its own distinct flavor.
Shailene Woodley's performance carries the entire film, making Tris a believable teenager. She lashes out, wears her emotions on her sleeve, and her maturity believably wavers across the film. She and Theo James have requisite chemistry, as well. The standout here, however, is Miles Teller as the opportunistic Peter. Adding both levity and intrigue to the film, Teller is a breath of fresh air every time he appears on screen.
Insurgent isn't exactly a smart film, but enjoyable enough. Fast-paced with plenty of action, it marches relentlessly toward the next installment, acting as the transition from the old status quo to the new one. While promising an eventual dawn, Insurgent does not shy away from the darkness (i.e. violence) inherent in its dystopian setting.
The Divergent Series: Insurgent opens today in Philly area theaters.