The Divergent Series
Divergent (April 21/14)
Set, of course, within a dystopian landscape, Divergent follows Shailene Woodley's Tris as she joins a rough-and-tumble faction called the Dauntless and subsequently embarks on a brutal training regimen designed to transform her into a fierce warrior. Like Veronica Roth's overlong novel, Divergent boasts (or suffers from) a heavy emphasis on the central character's ongoing efforts at blending into her new faction - with the movie's entire midsection devoted to the various exercises and games that Tris and other newcomers are forced to undergo. The proliferation of familiar faces within the supporting cast, coupled with Neil Burger's steady directorial hand, goes a long way towards perpetuating the film's watchable atmosphere, and yet it's clear that the script, by Evan Daugherty and Vanessa Taylor, is far more faithful to the source material than one might've preferred - as the movie, for most of its running time, seems to consist solely of one tiresome training sequence after the next. This ultimately ensures that Divergent wears down/exhausts the viewer to an increasingly distressing extent, and it does, as a result, become more and more difficult to work up any interest in the protagonist's continuing exploits - which proves especially disastrous once the action-packed third act rolls around (ie it's become awfully difficult to wholeheartedly care about the outcome of any of this). And although there are a handful of exciting moments housed within the final stretch, Divergent has, by that point, long-since established itself as just another bloated adaptation that's unable to capture the magic of its literary forebear.
Insurgent (May 21/15)
Directed by Robert Schwentke, Insurgent offers up more of the same as Tris (Shailene Woodley) and her fellow rebels take their battle even deeper into the heart of the conspiracy. It's rather surprising to note that Insurgent boasts an entertaining, fast-paced opening half hour, as filmmaker Schwentke litters the early part of the narrative with several unexpectedly compelling sequences (eg a character learns a rather unfortunate truth). The smattering of action sequences during this portion of the proceedings fare better than one might've anticipated as well, with, in particular, one such moment possessing far more excitement and genuine thrills than anything contained within the first movie. There's little doubt, however, that Insurgent begins to lose its grip on the viewer past a certain point, as the movie's second half becomes repetitive and needlessly prolonged to an increasingly (and excessively) palpable extent. (It certainly doesn't help that the film has been saddled with a flat-out ludicrous 119 minute running time.) The movie doesn't truly hit the wall until it arrives at its interminable, aggressively larger-than-life finale, which is so overloaded with computer-generated effects that it feels as though it'd be more at home in a cutting-edge video game - thus ensuring that Insurgent ultimately falls right in line with its hopelessly mediocre predecessor.