How is it that Tris (Shailene Woodley) takes a rusted pair of clunky scissors and cuts her own hair perfectly? Seriously, this is how "Insurgent" begins, and I thought, whoa, we're in for along night at the



Fortunately for Tris, Four (Theo James) professes to love the incredibly well-shaped new "do", and "Insurgent" thankfully improves from there. Though there is a remarkable amount of running, and dodging bullets in this film (which I always find absurd), "Insurgent" is a much better movie than the first in this series.


Naomi Watts joins the cast as Evelyn, Four's mother, who is hell-bent on taking down Jeanine (Kate Winslet), the maniacal leader of the Erudite faction. Four wants nothing to do with mommie dearest until Tris is captured by Jeanine, and he needs Evelyn's help to free her.


Jeanine is in possession of a five-sided box, which can only be opened by a "true" 100% Divergent. She believes the box holds the secret to the future, and when Tris is revealed as one of these rare Divergents, she is brought to Jeanine to open the box.


It takes a long time getting to this point in the film, but it's also when "Insurgent" gets really good. Jeanine is one nasty piece of work, embedding her enemies with a device with which she can control them --- making them commit suicide, etc.


And the trauma and machinations Tris must endure psychologically and physically to open the box is riveting. I am not a fan of such stories, usually, but by the end of "Insurgent" I was duly impressed, and interested in the outcome awaiting us in the next film in this series.


If only director Robert Schwentke would give up the longing looks between shorn Tris and wildly handsome Four, and the screenplay by Brian Duffield, Akiva Goldsman and Mark Bomback would STOP using lines like "No more lies", and other such nonsense, "Insurgent" could have been an even better film. Alas, for some reason, these detracting elements remain in play.



Opinion: Wait for DVD




This second installment of Veronica Roth's popular novels has its good points, but also contains some irritating aspects. No doubt fans of the books will embrace "Insurgent" for its visual appeal, but that's not enough for me to recommend it.


On the plus side, the special effects are quite good, especially when Tris Prior (Shailene Woodley) is hooked up to electrodes for wild virtual reality experiences called "Sims", i.e., hallucinatory simulations. These Sims take her through the wreckage that is Chicago.


The opening of the movie features explanations of the five factions. This serves as a primer for non-readers of the books, and a reminder for those of us whose only exposure to the series is the first film, "Divergent".


Other returning cast members include Theo James as Four, Tris' Divergent mate and love interest, along with Ansel Elgort as her brother, Caleb, and Miles Teller as Peter. Jai Courtney is back as Eric, the chief enforcer for Jeanine's (Kate Winslet) Erudite faction. In reading detailed excerpts of the factions as conceived by Roth, I've concluded it's impossible for a feature length film to do justice to the material, and still keep the movie under four hours.


"Insurgent" stretches the imagination when a scrawny character like Tris manages to overpower much bigger and stronger opponents. And it is ludicrous that the main characters always manage to elude bullets flying at them whenever there is a shootout. In general, only minor characters get hit.


And the thing I find most annoying? Watching these characters maneuver their eyeballs back and forth while gazing into each other's eyes. James is the most guilty of this distracting and irritating behavior. Who looks at someone that way?


Oscar-winning Akiva Goldsman ("A Beautiful Mind") is a contributor to the screenplay, but that doesn't help the dialogue, or some of the interactions between characters.


If you're keeping count,  it's two down and two to go in the series, scheduled to be completed in 2017.


Opinion: Wait for DVD