“Cruelty does not make a person dishonest, the same way bravery does not make a person kind.”
The second book in Veronica Roth‘s young adult dystopian Divergent series, Insurgent picks up as Tris and Four, now fugitives, are on the run, hunted by the leader of the power-hungry Erudite elite, Jeanine. In a search for allies and answers in the ruins of a futuristic Chicago and racing against time, the fearless duo must find out what Tris’ family sacrificed their lives to protect, and why the Erudite leaders will do anything to stop them. Haunted by her past choices Tris faces one impossible challenge after another as they unlock the truth about the past and ultimately the future of their world.
Directed by Robert Schwentke and once again led by Shailene Woodley, the film adaptation is set to be released on 20th March.
The following post is a review of the book only, looking at how it is going to be adapted. You can read my review of the film adaptation in comparison to the book here.
With the first book in the series, Divergent, adapted and released in cinemas last year, the Divergent series, like its young adult competitors The Hunger Games and The Maze Runner, has been a hugely popular franchise. With the first film directed by Neil Burger, Divergent pulled in a huge fanbase, introducing a futuristic, post-apocalyptic, dystopian world in which society divides its citizens into five different factions – Abnegation (the selfless), Amity (the peaceful), Candor (the honest), Dauntless (the brave), and Erudite (the intelligent) – removing the threat of anyone exercising independent will and re-threatening the population’s safety.
Centring on 16-year-old Beatrice Prior (played in the film by the beautiful Shailene Woodley), we learn about Divergents, citizens who have the ability to control their fears, think more independently, and remain self-aware under the mind-controlling simulations that they are put under. But not everybody sees independence as a quality. With some of the community leaders, especially Erudite leader Jeanine (Kate Winslet), wanting to keep their citizens under control, Divergents are seen as a threat and have to keep their identity a secret.
The first film sees Tris join the Dauntless faction at her choosing ceremony, where she meets her instructor and soon-to-be boyfriend Four (Theo James). Discovering her true identity, Tris unravels a plot to destroy Divergents and sets out to stop it. Stopping Jeanine just in time, the story ends with the dystopian city in a state of flux. What makes Divergents so dangerous? And who can be trusted to keep this from happening again?
Insurgent picks up as Tris, Four, Caleb, Peter, and Marcus search for a place to keep safe, finding themselves welcomed into Amity, where several surviving Abnegation have settled. But rest and a hiding place from Jeanine doesn’t last long, as Tris must continue her fight against the powerful alliance which threatens to tear her society apart.
Divergent did well to set the story up, especially with the huge competition that the film had and has. But it excelled on most levels: it had great characters, a well-crafted future world, a bit of romance, a lot of intrigue and even more action. Yet Insurgent falls flat on most of these levels.
Throughout the story, we only want the answer to one question: what is the information that Jeanine is trying to hide? But it’s not until the very end that we find out, and until then there’s a lot of build up to, well, nothing. There are a lot more shooting and fighting scenes and a bigger focus on the fear simulations that give the film its dark edge, but what stands out more than these impacting scenes is the amount of times that Tris cries and her constant worry about Four.
The romance worked really well in Divergent because Four wasn’t a particularly likeable character, which made Tris’ romance with him subtle yet honest. The first film also worked because of how strong Tris’ character was, especially as she realised that she could control her fears. But fear takes over in Insurgent, and both of these qualities come crumbling down. Tris may be a 16-year-old girl who knows nothing but the care of her loving family up until her move to Dauntless, and this may be how most would react in a real-life situation, but this is a fantasy story about strength, control, and standing up for what’s right. Insurgent really needed to see Tris step up and dealt with her situation full on, but, instead, it all gets too much for her and we have to see her constant meltdowns instead of her huge acts of courage.
There is a big reveal at the end of the book which everything has built up towards but, by this point, it’s easy to have either stopped caring or to have guessed it for yourself. For me, it was both. From the start of Divergent we’ve been craving to know why society is the way it is and what’s beyond the walls, but if you’ve read any kind of dystopian story lately, especially among the busy young adult crowd, then it’s all pretty obvious which, unfortunately, leaves the book falling at a dead-end. Sure, Allegiance is going to be filled with more revelations, shocks, and, ultimately, some kind of revolution but at this point, it’s hard to feel excited about it.
The film adaptation has been directed by Robert Schwentke, director of the romance and book adaptation The Time Traveller’s Wife, as well as the action films R.I.P.D. and RED. In theory, Schwentke should be the perfect man for the job. He can do book adaptations, he can do heart-breaking romances, he can do good action. This combination would make an excellent young adult dystopia full of action with a hint of romance. Unfortunately, the book doesn’t seem to have many scenes of good action or a good romance, so he’s not got a lot to work with. But from the trailer alone, the visuals look fantastic, and it seems as though he has crammed in as many stunts as he can. Which is going to be much needed!
Most of the original cast return, including Shailene Woodley as Tris, Theo James as Four, Ansel Elgort as Caleb Prior, Zoë Kravitz as Christina, Miles Teller as Peter, Kate Winslet as Jeanine, Jai Courtney as Eric, Ray Stevenson as Marcus, Maggie Q as Tori, as well as bigger roles from Keiynan Lonsdale as Uriah, Suki Waterhouse as Marlene, and Rosa Salazar as Lynn.
We also get to see some new scenes from Ashley Judd as Tris’ mother Natalie Prior, despite her death in the first book. I loved Judd’s role in the first film so it’s great news that we get to see more of her, even if it will likely only be for a few minutes in Tris’ simulations.
The original cast are all fantastic, and Woodley, Elgort, and Teller have all done so well since their roles in Divergent, so I can’t wait to see them all back together again.
Moreso, I’m looking forward to seeing the biggest new addition to the cast, with Naomi Watts as Evelyn Johnson-Eaton. With Judd and Winslet already starring in the film, Watts join the list of talented – older – actresses leading the film, and I think she’s going to fit in perfectly.
Insurgent is set to be released in cinemas on 20th March.