Except for the charismatic performance of its lead actress, Insurgent is a two-bit attempt at building a mega-bucks franchise.

Beginning with an intriguing metaphor that has society divided into five factions, 2014’s Divergent looked to take YA films to the next level, but can it or will it ever match up to The Hunger Games franchise? Truth is, it doesn’t matter. One sure-footed hero (or heroine) is all it takes to rattle iron-fisted tyranny. It’s a stirring theme in the rising trend in YA films and by the looks of it, there’s more to come. However, the real question we should be asking is if this sequel is necessary.

Insurgent, based on the second book in the science fiction series of young-adult novels by Veronica Roth, takes us back days after the events of the first film. Divergent director Neil Burger is replaced by Robert Schwentke and so are the screenwriters. It’s too early to say if this was a bad move, and again, it doesn’t matter. Here’s why: Insurgent is basically a rehash of Divergent but with added visual effects and a bit more violence than expected in a YA film. In other words, if you’ve missed the first film, Schwentke brings you up to speed with the post-apocalyptic remains of a dystopian Chicago. Tris (Shailene Woodley) is haunted by the massacre of her parents. Along with her boyfriend and instructor Four (Theo James), brother Caleb (Ansel Elgort) and fellow survivor Peter (Miles Teller), Tris must do all she can to outrun, outgun and ultimately outsmart forces sent by main antagonist Jeanine (Kate Winslet).

It would have sufficed to leave the setup as such, with a plot device treading towards the breakdown of society and the ensuing anarchy spreading on both sides. Instead, the story is penned with a lot of focus on irrelevant characters whose inclusion only serves to prolong the inevitable face-off between Tris and Jeanine. Naomi Watts plays one such character who simply doesn’t add plausibility but somehow becomes the matriarch, much like Julianne Moore turned out to be in the third Hunger Games film. Even so, nothing can prepare you for the utter incoherence that forms the bulk of the story. But if you ever find yourself wondering what the heck is happening, just remember this – In the first film, Tris was introduced as a multi-skilled teen with rebellious potential. In this film, Tris returns as a multi-skilled teen with rebellious potential. Did someone say rehash?

In defense, one could say that Schwentke and his trio of screenwriters are setting things up for a third and fourth film, and that action and visual effects are a notch more rewarding than the previous film. True. With a rare twinkle of cosmic luminance in her eyes, one could also add that Woodley has a lot of raw talent and it shows, but unfortunately, it isn’t enough to nourish a film with too many deficiencies. Only fans need apply.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆


About Lloyd Bayer

Besides his passion for travelling, photography and scuba diving, Lloyd is a prolific film critic having contributed hundreds of film reviews to web and print journals, including IMDb and local daily Khaleej Times.