It’s not as polished as The Hunger Games – but this look-alike continues to provide an entertaining diversion.
Much like with last year’s The Maze Runner (which is also getting a sequel), all three series are at least getting it right for its target teen demographic, and this sequel builds on solid foundations laid by the first outing – based on Veronica Roth’s post-apocalyptic novels – providing a bit more ‘bang’ but maybe a little less ‘heart’.
Some of Hollywood’s top talent – including Oscar-nominee Naomi Watts (King Kong), The Help’s Oscar-winner Octavia Spencer and Project Almanac’s break-out star Jonny Weston – have joined the ride, and along with the likes of the returning Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Miles Teller, Jai Courtney and Kate Winslet, the amiable cast all help the movie from falling apart under the weight of a ropey cliché-ridden script.
After being found out that she is ‘divergent’ – having abilities that transcend the expected singular virtue that should fit into one faction in a dystopian Chicago society – Tris Prior (Woodley) is now on the run with her boyfriend Four (James), her brother Caleb (Ansel Elgort) and the untrustworthy Peter (Teller), as fugitives being hunted by Jeanine (Winslet), the leader of the power-hungry Erudite elite.
After being located by Evelyn (Watts), the leader of a rogue ‘faction-less’ organisation, the burgeoning couple must find out what Tris’ family sacrificed their lives to protect – which is the very same thing Jeanine has now got her hands on and needs Tris to unlock with her extraordinary divergent talents.
But as well as being on the run, Tris must confront her inner demons and come to terms with her own grief and perceived wrongdoings before she self-destructs – with potential civil war on the horizon.
This time round, the story mainly triumphs from several – usually heavily computer-generated – edge-of-your-seat action set-pieces, that keeps the two-hour run-time moving at an always watchable (and definitely more violent) pace, with some nice visual flair and a couple of decent twists.
On the downside – despite the best efforts of its noteworthy cast – there’s very little depth and ingenuity on display, and if you wanted to pick creative holes in the film, you could easily turn into an insurgent against the franchise’s fans and have a field day.
But, and it’s a big ‘but’, if you leave your brain at the door, then there’s ultimately enjoyment to be had here – and that’s what cinema’s all about right?
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Cast: Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Kate Winslet, Miles Teller, Naomi Watts, Jai Courtney, Ansel Elgort, Mekhi Phifer, Maggie Q, Zoe Kravitz, Jonny Weston, Daniel Dae Kim, Ray Stevenson, Ashley Judd, Tony Goldwyn & Octavia Spencer
Running Time: 1 Hr 59 Mins
Director: Robert Schwentke