"Insurgent": A Mars vs Venus review

STARRING: Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Kate Winslet, Miles Teller, Jai Courtney, Naomi Watts, Zoe Kravitz
DIRECTOR: Robert Schwentke
THE SKINNY: In a society where citizens are divided into factions according to their aptitudes, Tris (Woodley), a "divergent" who can't be pigeonholed into any one faction, is on the run from Jeanine (Winslet), who leads the oppressive Erudite faction. Jeanine wants to use Tris' skills to open a high tech box filled with information that will transform their world.

A Mars look by Jason Johnson

I can't recall experiencing a single emotion while watching Insurgent.

It's visually dynamic, with a nice look and some spectacular action, but it feels a bit plastic and lifeless.

I think the main problem is that there are just way too many ideas, and so they spend a lot of time trying to explain things rather than just digging into the characters.

In a franchise with five different factions, you end up having to spend time learning about all of them, ending up with only a cursory take on what makes them tick.

There's the faction war. Then there's the hunt for the divergents. Then there's the bizarre stuff with the box.

The main idea in the sequel is that Tris has to take this test where she uses skills from each of the different factions in order to open the special box that explains everything about this weird world.

It's kind of a neat concept, but none of the tests really resonated with me.

There's a lot of flash, but very little substance.

I almost think The Divergent Series would work better as a TV series, where they could really explore each of the different factions and how they interact.

The only actor who seems fully alive in Insurgent is the excellent Miles Teller as Peter Hayes, Tris' tormentor from the Dauntless faction.

These Divergent movies are pretty good fun, but The Hunger Games they are not.

A Venus look by Joanne Soh

If you are not a fan of the series or have not seen the first movie, then this isn't for you.

The follow-up assumes you're familiar with its convoluted universe of different factions and characteristics mapped out in the 2014 hit.

While there are recaps, they're minimal. That may work in the movie's favour by getting it moving, but the pace is uneven, so at the times it leaves you wanting more, there is no payoff.

The acting, despite its supporting cast of Winslet, Watts and Octavia Spencer, is equally dismal.

Watts' and Spencer's roles are forgettable, and one can only presume they will have a bigger presence in the next instalment.

Otherwise, why hire these Oscar winners and nominees?

Winslet, who had a juicier part in Divergent, is relegated to being the one-dimensional tyrant. Eye candy James does his protective boyfriend/leader thing perfunctorily.

Even Woodley seldom rises to the occasion of being the heroine of the series.

I did not buy her angsty emotional struggles over being "the chosen one".

Blame it on German director Schwentke - who took over from Divergent's Neil Burger - for choosing to focus on the action sequences, which are certainly more impressive.

There's no lack of talent in the cast, so one hopes Schwentke will leave it to his actors to drive the narrative in the next outing, Allegiant: Part 1.

THE CONSENSUS: If you haven't seen the first film, you might be lost in this rather ineffective sequel.

This article was first published on Mar 18, 2015.
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