Posted by Joel Copling on March 19, 2015

"Insurgent," the second of a planned four-film series based on a trilogy by Veronica Roth, presents a conundrum difficult for anyone to foresee: Yes, it finally reconciles the series' confused ideas about its own premise, but it fails to answer the question properly about whether those ideas were ever any good in the first place. This one in particular is a doozy, and it calls into question even the overall worth of the previous installment, 2014's "Divergent." For most of the newer film's 119 minutes, though, things move competently enough: The action sequences have a general sense of geography, the actors actually try to imbue some sense of depth to one-note characters, and so on.

As the faction Abnegation has been destroyed by Erudite leader Jeanine (Kate Winslet) and penned on convicted fugitive runaways Tris (Shailene Woodley), her brother Caleb (Ansel Elgort), her boyfriend Four (Theo James), and apparent defector Peter (Miles Teller), the three remaining factions (Amity, Candor, and Dauntless) are thrown into infrastructural turmoil. The Dauntless are forced into hiding in Candor under the ultra-honest leadership of their president (Daniel Dae Kim), while Tris and Friends call upon Amity's leader (Octavia Spencer, for some reason) for help. But neither is willing to offer aid under Jeanine's watchful eye, and so Four reveals his true identity as the son of Factionless semi-general Evelyn (Naomi Watts, losing a bet but sporting attractively brunette hair, at least), on whom they are forced to lean in order to create an army that will stand against Jeanine and hers.

And at least it moves along swimmingly enough for a while, even if it isn't particularly involving, moving along at a clip-enough pace (and keeping it a hair less than two hours, to boot), thanks to Robert Schwentke's fleet, if slight, presence behind the camera. But then those final 15 minutes come, and the conundrum presents itself: Here we are witnessing the coming-together of all the disparate, confused themes into a whole, and they are worthless ideas--simultaneously infuriating and inconsequential to any sort of cohesive whole, reducing whatever the audience was supposed to invest interest in to the childish antics of an entire race of people. In one fell swoop, this series has made a sharp u-turn from politically dimbrained to an exhibition of what the late Roger Ebert once coined the "Idiot Plot." It's enough to make one want to take a shower.

Film Information

Shailene Woodley (Tris), Theo James (Four), Kate Winslet (Jeanine), Ansel Elgort (Caleb), Miles Teller (Peter), Jai Courtney (Eric), Naomi Watts (Evelyn), Mekhi Phifer (Max), Ashley Judd (Natalie), Daniel Dae Kim (Jack Kang), Octavia Spencer (Johanna), Maggie Q (Tori), ZoŽ Kravitz (Christina), Ray Stevenson (Marcus).

Directed by Robert Schwentke and written by Brian Duffield, Akiva Goldsman, and Mark Bomback, based on the novel by Veronica Roth.

Rated PG-13 (intense violence/action throughout, sensuality, thematic elements, brief language).

119 minutes.