Last year, the world was introduced to the young heroine Tris Prior and the dystopian Chicago of Neil Burger’s ‘Divergent.’ In that film based on Veronica Roth’s first novel, this society of factions was established and we met the villainous Erudite leader named Janine Matthews, who looked to control the entire society and wipe out everyone who opposed her. Now that the world has been built, the story continues in Robert Schwentke’s ‘Insurgent,’ the second installment of the four-part film series meant to fill the void left by superior young adult franchises such as ‘Harry Potter,’ ‘The Hunger Games,’ or ‘The Maze Runner.’ And while it tries to do that very hard, the latest chapter in ‘The Divergent Series’ fails to measure up to it’s predecessors in this genre, including the series’ own starting point.
‘Insurgent’ finds Tris and her pals in exile and on the run from the joint Erudite/Dauntless forces controlled by Kate Winslet’s Janine. While finding sanctuary in the peaceful Amity faction, they must unite the factions and the Factionless against their common enemy to stop war from raging on. But along the way, Tris must conquer hurdle after hurdle despite being haunted by her past in order to overthrow Janine and unlock certain truths about her world.
From the start of the film, I got the vibe that ‘Insurgent’ was trying very hard to be ‘The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.’ The action was turned up quite a bit and the tone was much darker in terms of color palate and subject matter. However, the Shailene Woodley vehicle was lacking the heart that made the audience connect with the movie’s main character and her story in ‘Divergent’. Even when we saw Four express his love for Tris, it felt like the chemistry that was present in the first film had disappeared and the characters were just going through the motions.
Tris’ story started out well enough. I found it interesting that her loss-filled past was creating a sort of PTSD for her, which was an obstacle that she had to overcome before the final showdown with Janine. It started as a fascinating roadblock that needed to be faced, but ultimately the resolution became incredibly predictable from the moment that the mystery box that required someone to pass the tests for each faction was brought into play. Aside from the message contained inside this artifact, everything that Tris encountered could have been seen from a mile away.
When Tris’ trials and tribulations failed to keep my interests, the side characters played by Octavia Spencer, Miles Teller, and Daniel Dae Kim were there to pick up the slack. Kim and Spencer played the leaders of the Amity and Candor factions respectively. Without either of them, Tris and Four would not have been able to succeed. But on top of that, it was fascinating to see how these leaders and their factions dealt with the looming threat of Janine, Eric, and their combined forces. I almost wish that we could have stayed with the truthsayers of Candor a bit longer to learn more of their ways.
As for Teller, it was just funny to me to see him play such a flip-flopping jerk. His story was a predictable one as well, but there were some moments where it was fun to follow Peter and his will to survive. On the flipside, Ansel Elgort’s Caleb was not formed as well as he could have been as a character. It makes no sense that he would flip-flop like Peter after what happened to his and Tris’ parents and the Abnegation faction in the last movie. Sure, I totally believed it when he said that he couldn’t go with Tris and Four to find more allies because he’s not a warrior like they are, but what happens after that with him is completely unbelievable and it took me out of the moment every time he showed up again.
Overall, I found that ‘Insurgent’ accomplished very few things that it set out to do. Obviously, the filmmakers were attempting to score an ‘Empire Strikes Back’ with the second tale in ‘The Divergent Series,’ but the final product looks more like ‘Attack of the Clones.’ There was too much downtime in between interesting parts of the plot, the main characters couldn’t hold the audience’s attention the whole time, and even the 3D managed to fail the filmmakers at times because of how dark things were at times. The only area that this movie was very successful in was reigniting my crush on Naomi Watts that started with her role as Jet Girl in the 1995 comic book adaptation ‘Tank Girl.’ But with all that being said, the fight scenes were nicely choreographed and the side characters were interesting enough to keep things moving. Though a lot of this was filler, the story was generally more entertaining than other popular YA novel adaptations like ‘The Mortal Instruments’, ‘Ender’s Game’, or ‘Twilight’ and the ending left me curious enough about the next movie. I wouldn’t go recommending ‘Insurgent’ to everybody, but fans of the genre should enjoy it.