In this image released by Lionsgate, Theo James, center, Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort appear in a scene from "The Divergent Series: Insurgent." (AP Photo/Lionsgate, Andrew Cooper)

In this image released by Lionsgate, Theo James, center, Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort appear in a scene from "The Divergent Series: Insurgent." (AP Photo/Lionsgate, Andrew Cooper)

Reeling it in: Moviegoers could do far worse than ‘Insurgent’


Red Wagon Entertainment

1 hour, 59 minutes

“Insurgent,” the sequel to last year’s modest hit “Divergent,” starts out with promise. The film has high production values, and there’s a moody kind of vibe — our heroes are in hiding after whatever happened at the end of the last movie, which was forgettable enough that I’d forgotten it.

Tris, the poor man’s Katniss Everdeen, is reflecting on who she is, and how that will change the society she’s always known. She’s divergent (that should be read in a tense stage whisper), possessed of several different personality traits, and can no longer fit in a society that demands allegiance to only one. (If you read that last sentence and think, “What’s he talking about? Who doesn’t have several personality traits? What kind of a name is Tris?”, quit complaining, you weren’t going to see this movie anyway. Ask your teenage daughter.)

Seeing her flowing hair in the mirror, our heroine gives action to her existential conflict and decides to cut ties with the past by roughly cutting her own hair with a crude pair of garden shears. When Tris emerges to greet her fellows, however, it is with a knockout, $300 haircut complete with highlights and plenty of product. It’s at this point that I realized, “Oh, this movie is going to be even sillier than the last one.”

If you skipped “Divergent,” and who could blame you, the basic premise is this: The aforementioned society is divided into the aforementioned personality-trait based factions. There’s Dauntless, Amity, Candor, Erudite, and Abnegation — or Brave, Kind, Honest, Smart, and Selfless for short. Supposedly society has been running smoothly based on this odd emotional division of labor for a couple of centuries now, but with the emergence of Divergents, things are breaking down.

Divergents are people with varying degrees of all the traits (in other words, every single person in the world) and they are somehow dangerous to the entrenched oligarchy. Don’t spend a lot of time trying to work out the logic. I wasted all last year doing that, and in this film the society is falling apart, so the question is moot.

Anyway, Tris and her boyfriend/rebel leader Four (yes, that’s his name) are on the run, along with a growing army of Factionless — or people who don’t fit in a faction.

Wait, doesn’t that make them Divergent?! Why are Divergents enemies of the state and Factionless are just the homeless?

It doesn’t matter, because Jeanine, the Erudite leader of the entire community, will stop at nothing to capture Tris and use her to open the secret box, left by the founders two centuries ago, which has conveniently just been discovered. What’s in the box? Who knows, but only a Divergent can open it.

Jeanine seems to think the box will contain instructions on how to get rid of the Divergents, which makes me wonder just how Erudite she really is. If only a Divergent can open the box, it seems pretty likely that Jeanine and her crew aren’t going to like the message inside. I won’t give away the secret, but suffice it to say that it’s one of the only bits of the plot that even comes close to making a lick of sense.

I’m giving this movie a pretty hard time, mostly because it’s not a good movie, but I should say that I’ve seen far worse, and had a far worse time at the theater than I had watching “Insurgent.” These movies are dumb, but affable, and that’s saying something. Shailene Woodley, Theo James and Kate Winslet are all game for whatever silly situation the screenwriters throw at them, and just because it’s senseless doesn’t mean they don’t try to make it at least entertaining.

Maybe that’s faint praise, but at least I didn’t feel assaulted after seeing the film, like I did with “Neighbors,” nor did I feel like the filmmakers have contempt for the audience, like I do whenever I see a Michael Bay movie. The point is that the “Divergent” series are dumb, but harmless dumb.

And, as my English teacher wife pointed out, at the very least these movies are driving kids to read. Like “Harry Potter” and “Twilight” before them, the “Divergent” books are big, long, and very popular. A kid that can learn to enjoy reading as a pastime will never be wholly at the mercy of the video entertainment juggernaut so ever-present in this country. That kid will never be without a ready diversion, one that actually stimulates the mind and exercises the imagination instead of simply washing over him in a flurry of light and sound.

Even if the “Divergent” books are trash, and I can’t say whether they are or not, every kid who is lugging one around is, without even realizing it, expanding their vocabulary, becoming a better writer, and jump-starting critical thinking.

So, no, “Insurgent” wasn’t very good. But, c’mon. It’s spring and hope and optimism are floating around like soap bubbles from the plastic wands of children who can finally go outside and play without their snowgear on. Who am I to trash it? Go see it. Why not? At least you’ll get a good laugh.

Grade: C

“Insurgent” is rated PG-13 for violence, adult themes, and brief language.

Chris Jenness is a freelance graphic designer, artist and movie buff who lives in Nikiski.

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