By Jonathan Edmondson
Arts & Entertainment Editor
There’s something strangely intriguing about the world of the “Divergent” series. It’s set way in the future, and the only place left in America is Chicago. The crumbling city is surrounded by a giant wall, and inside lives the only remaining citizens on Earth. They survive by living by a new set of government — one that divides its denizens into five factions. There’s Abnegation, Amity, Candor, Erudite and Dauntless. Citizens are born into the faction that their parents live in, and when they come of age, they take a test that will place them in their “true” faction. It’s up to them whether they stick with their old faction or pick the new one.
The point of this system? Each faction is responsible for a part the success of the city (Amity deals with crops, Candor runs the judicial system, etc.). In theory, this actually seems like something that could work. And it would — if it weren’t for Tris and the rest of the Divergents.
It should come as little surprise that, of course, our heroine is “different.” She is a Divergent — she does not fit into any of the factions. Rather, all of the factions apply to her in some way. But by the time “Insurgent” starts, we already know all of this. Tris (played by the always impressive Shailene Woodley — more on her later) and her lover, Four (a strong Theo James), are on the run from Erudite, who is trying to take over the city.
The Erudite leader, Jeanine (a wickedly icy Kate Winslet), wants to rid the place of Divergents and keep the peace the best way she knows how.
Of course, our heroes can’t let her get away with this. So they develop a plan, join with the Factionless (those who were rejected or chose to leave their original faction) and set out to kill Jeanine, or at least stop her plan.
If the plotline sounds cliché, it’s because it is. It’s nothing we haven’t seen before. Girl falls for guy. Guy and girl team up to save the world. Girl gets captured. Girl gets away. Girl is extraordinary … you know the rest.
Yet, despite this, “Insurgent” is a drastic improvement over the original “Divergent” film. Stuffed with action-packed sequences and quips of witty dialogue scenes, “Insurgent” rumbles on like a freight train.
The film, based on the book of the same name by Veronica Roth, does not waste time recapping what was previously explained in exhaustive length in the first installment. Instead, audiences follow Tris and Four on their epic adventure. The storyline may scream cliché, but expert acting from a young cast and careful direction gives a fresh spin on an old plot.
Plus, there’s no denying that the world Roth has created is utterly unique. Sure, it may sometimes march to the same beat as “The Hunger Games” or “The Maze Runner” series, but “Insurgent” has enough originality to make it feel fresh. Tris is not as whiny as Jennifer Lawrence’s Katniss, and there’s no unnecessary love triangle to deal with. Tris and Four are in love, and there’s no doubt about that.
Luckily for viewers, the film focuses more on the action than the romance anyway. Tris isn’t dependent on her man for self-satisfaction or verification. She’s one of the strongest female characters in the young adult world, and that’s thanks in part to Woodley’s focused and dynamic performance.
By the end of the film, the world of the “Divergent” series has taken a dramatic turn. For those who haven’t already read the books, it’s unclear where the story could go next.
But as long as Woodley’s on board, I’ll follow the series anywhere.