Film Review: Insurgent

Rating:

Based on the second novel in Veronica Roth‘s young adult dystopian Divergent series, Insurgent, directed by Robert Schwentke, picks up as Tris (Shailene Woodley) and Four (Theo James), now fugitives on the run, are hunted by the leader of the power-hungry Erudite elite, Jeanine (Kate Winslet). In search for allies and answers and racing against time, the fearless duo must find out what Tris’s 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.

The following post is a review of the film only. You can read my review of the book on its own here or my comparison of the film to the book here.

Divergent was one of my favourite films of last year, and I was super excited to have another young adult dystopian world to throw myself into. I watched the first film before reading the book (something I usually try to avoid), but after reading Roth’s first instalment in her trilogy, I quickly realised that the books were so much better than the films.

Eager to catch up, I soon began reading this second instalment in the trilogy, but it didn’t take me long to question whether it was heading in the right direction or not.

Divergent did well to set this brilliant dystopian world up, especially with the huge competition that the film has had with the likes of The Hunger Games and The Maze Runner. But, despite the comparisons that were doomed to be made, Divergent excelled on most levels: it had great leading characters, a well-crafted future world, a bit of romance, a lot of intrigue, and enough action to make for both a fast-paced read and an enticing viewing. Yet Insurgent falls flat on most of these levels.

Just like the first film, Insurgent is full to the brim of action; there’s just as much fighting and shooting, and even more violence than its predecessor, which is what made Divergent stand out, for me. Whilst the book itself is quite uneventful, what the film does well is to turn up these levels of action, with plenty of nifty visual effects to support them.

The performances are all on top form, as is to be expected, with the excellent addition of Naomi Watts as Evelyn. But, as much as I love Shailene Woodley, her character in the book becomes more unlikeable as the trilogy goes on, making her selfish acts more and more difficult to admire as she becomes more willing to act on her own behalf and let everybody else take the fall and added guilt. Theo James is great, too, but his character is also weakened by Tris’ actions, as he spends more time having to pick up the pieces of her mess than getting to be the tough, sexy, mentor that he was in the first film.

My main flaw with the book was that this romance got in the way and that we started to see Tris as a much weaker character as she spent more time sat by herself crying or worrying about Four than making any memorable act of courage. Insurgent really needed to see her step up and deal with her situation full on, but, instead, it all gets too much for her, and she’s more likely to be seen having a meltdown than doing anything worthwhile. Thankfully, the film avoids many of these scenes and does well to portray Tris as a much stronger character than the one she reads as. The film even completely avoids the fact that she’s scared to shoot a gun, just to get around the matter.

All we really needed from this second instalment was the answer to one question: what is the information that Jeanine is trying to hide? With a whole novel to build up to this one big reveal, very little is actually disclosed, and it’s not until the very end that we find out that something much bigger, whatever that may be, is going on. Unfortunately, what is revealed in Insurgent is what we already guessed from the end of Divergent. We all knew that something was happening outside of the walls, and there’s very little else that we’re told on top of that.

Whilst this instalment only had the purpose of answering one question, which it still manages to mess up, the film does well to fill in the gaps, ensuring that enough is happening to distract us from not being told the only thing we wanted to know.

But with so many changes from the book, which I will go into shortly, the Insurgent film manages to completely change the context it has in the rest of the trilogy. Roth is the first person to admit that there was too much plot going on in this instalment, with very little progression being made, but the way this adaptation has been handled means that Allegiant is already off to a bad start.

This second instalment doesn’t feel as original or adventurous as the first, but there’s still a lot of decent action to keep you entertained. The book may not be overly exciting, but this film adaptation picks up on its flaws, even if it does completely change the context of the instalment in the rest of the trilogy. Changes aside, the film is enjoyable to watch, but it all seems to be going downhill quite quickly.

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