‘Insurgent’ movie review: Dumb series gets dumber

‘Insurgent,” like its predecessor “Divergent,” is well made in every sense except for perhaps the most important: it continues an utterly moronic story that only grows and expands in its stupidity as this series progresses.

Suspension of disbelief is a great and necessary quality if one is to appreciate virtually any Hollywood movie. But there’s suspension of disbelief and then there’s what the “Divergent” movies require, which is a total rejection of the most basic concepts of humanity.

To recap: in a dystopian future that looks remarkably like every similar society we’ve seen in a young adult novel over the past decade, humankind has been divided into five factions by their singular defining personality traits.

This runs against everything we know about what it is to be alive, a complicated experience that rejects the easy notion that a person can be all kind (Amity), or smart (Erudite), or fearless (Dauntless) without significant overlap. The concept is deeply problematic, transcending a mere implausibility to the point where characters behave in counterintuitive fashions in order to remain true to their sects.

The sequel finds Tris (Shailene Woodley) and Four (Theo James) on the run from governmental forces spearheaded by Jeanine (Kate Winslet), who is hellbent on finding the proper “divergent” (an individual that, gasp, can’t be defined by a single group) to open an ancient MacGuffin that supposedly contains a “message from the founders.”

In the grand scheme of compelling villainous motivations, this ranks pretty low. It’s hard to blame Jeanine, really, for wanting to uncover what’s in the box even if it does cost the lives of some unfortunate test subjects who can’t handle being “injected by all five sims” (don’t ask). In fact, it’s just a device that facilitates scenes of Tris and Four on the run, first hiding out with Amity (run by Octavia Spencer), finding their way to the “faction-less” (led by Naomi Watts) and eventually challenging the tightly-wound baddie. It also effectively bails out a plot that has hit a dead end.

The writing is so fundamentally flawed on multiple levels that the movie’s many positive traits get lost. The ensemble — which also includes Miles Teller and Ansel Elgort — is totally committed and director Robert Schwentke stages some edge-of-your-seat chase scenes. The movie is thankfully bereft of excessive CGI except for in the simulations, which are really the heart of the “Insurgent” series and engagingly combine Tris’ psychology with enormous graphical spectacle.

It’s probably not possible to make a film worth seeing out this material, though. Whenever the movie makes a serious attempt to develop these characters and explore the depth of Veronica Roth’s fantasy world, though, the nonsensical underpinnings are made all too apparent.