The Divergent Series: Insurgent

Directed by:  Robert Schwentke

Starring: Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Octavia Spencer, Jai Courtney, Ray Stevenson, Zoë Kravitz, Miles Teller, Ansel Elgort, Maggie Q, Naomi Watts, Kate Winslet, and Ashley Judd

With the flood of young adult film adaptations in theaters, it has become increasingly difficult for popular book series to stand out.  Last year’s Divergent, however, was a surprise success. While Divergent did not reach Hunger Games’ heights by any measure, Divergent grossed more than $288 million worldwide.  That box office haul was enough to ensure that the entire book series would be brought to the big screen.  Insurgent, the second installment in Veronica Roth series, brings big budget action, but may leave viewers puzzled if they have not read the books.

Insurgent picks up where Divergent left off.  Tris (Shailene Woodley), Four (Theo James), Caleb (Ansel Elgort) and Peter (Miles Teller) have escaped after foiling Jeanine’s (Kate Winslet) diabolical plan to kill the Abnegation faction.  Jeanine, however, has convinced the city that Tris and Four were the masterminds behind the attack and the deaths of hundreds of people. She has sent out her team of Dauntless led by Eric (Jai Courtney) to find the fugitives.  Her manhunt becomes even more ruthless as she determines that she needs to find a strong “divergent” to unlock the secrets of the city’s origin.

Meanwhile, Tris and the others have found temporary shelter with the Amity faction just outside of the city.  Amity’s leader Johanna (Octavia Spencer) is not thrilled to have fugitives staying with her peaceful faction.  After Tris beats up Peter, Johanna is on the verge of throwing them out when Eric and his crew arrive. Eric demands that Johanna allow his team to scan the Amity group to determine if there are any “divergents” present.  While the scanning is taking place, Peter turns on his group and alerts Eric to their presence.  Tris, Caleb and Four narrowly escape Eric’s squad and head into the city.  Tris and Four hope to build an army to kill Jeanine before she harms any more innocent people. 

Insurgent has been widely panned by film critics, and I understand that criticism.  On the one hand, the film is more action-packed than its predecessor.  However, Insurgent is so fast-paced that viewers who have not read the book may find the plot to be incoherent.  Similarly, readers may be dismayed because the film departs from the book and focuses primarily on the action. As a result, the film does not adequately chronicle the characters’ development and their interpersonal relationships.  Tris’s romance with Four and her relationships with her brother and Christina are the backbone of the novels.  Those relationships are somewhat lost in the shuffle as the movie propels Tris from one harrowing situation to the next.  Additionally, Insurgent’s heavy reliance on CGI takes away from the film’s spectacle.

With that being said, I actually liked Insurgent.  Having read the novels, I had a greater appreciation for the story.  Shailene Woodley’s transformation from the shy young girl in Divergent into a total badass is complete, and she plays the tough Tris to perfection.  Miles Teller also stands out as the turncoat Peter.  Fresh off of his success in Whiplash, Teller steals scenes in Insurgent left and right with a character who is at once annoying, funny and repulsive.  Ansel Elgort also is noteworthy in that he is completely loathsome.  I worried that I would think about Elgort’s and Woodley’s romance in The Fault In Our Stars during Insurgent.  After all, they played lovers just months ago and are now cast as brother and sister in Insurgent.  However, Elgort plays Caleb as such a cowardly wimp, he wiped romance from The Fault in Our Stars from my mind. Naomi Watts was also a solid addition to the cast.  She seems a little young to play the mother of the 30 year-old James, but theoretically, she could have been a teenage mother. 

Additionally, I think that the ending of Insurgent effectively sets up the final installment of the series, Allegiant.  Initially when I learned that Allegiant would be broken into two films a la Harry Potter, I was concerned.  Splitting the final Harry Potter book into two films made sense because so much happened in The Deathly Hallows that the tale needed two movies.  The Hunger Games and Twilight series attempted this split treatment, but the final books lacked the depth of Harry Potter and the films were not as good.  With Insurgent, the emotional weight of the story was missing because the film tries to hit every action point.  By dividing Allegiant into two movies, filmmakers will have an opportunity to explore the characters and the plot, and Allegiant will not feel as rushed as Insurgent

Insurgent earns a 0.06% rating.  Have a Corona with this one.