Following the popular dystopian future in this young adult genre that has created both admiration and annoyance among moviegoers, comes the second installment in the Divergent trilogy, Insurgent. An improvement from its predecessor, Insurgent resumes where Divergent left off, as Tris (Shailene Woodley) and Four (Theo James), race against time as they try to figure out what Abnegation sacrificed their lives to protect. In director Robert Schwentke’s latest effort, many flaws are apparent, but it still proves to be a step up from the first installment. When it comes to following the story in the book, the film loosely captures the complex infrastructure of the novel.
While Insurgent portrays many of the important plot elements, missing is the involvement of some key characters and relationships pertinent to the story. Many of the key players of the divergent factions appear briefly, throwing out a few lines before they blend into the background with the other rebels. This omission leads these individuals to be scaled down to mere backstory, which removes a majority of their influence in the tale. These missing details cause certain story elements to lack emotional depth and lead the revelations and twists to be less engaging. In addition, some aspects of the storyline were ambiguous, left unanswered and unexplained, and could have been avoided without these plot holes.
Although the trailer sets expectations extremely high for an action-packed adventure, the actual movie possesses a noticeable shortage of action and excitement until the final moments. While some battle scenes were exhilarating, like the skirmish on the train, other conflict scenes seem dull and somewhat fake. For instance, a few scenes showed bad guys who surprisingly lacked any skill firing guns aimlessly, missing constantly. The action scenes also become a little too repetitive, containing the same elements, as the characters are always running for their lives, hiding, fighting, or dreaming. Only stopping for essential dialogue, the movie follows a convoluted and frantic pace. Nevertheless, towards the end, the tension builds up and the concluding scenes provide enticing and intriguing features drawing in interest.
In the scenes without action, the dialogue is either intensely dramatic or extremely dry, with little room in between. Whether it was passionate conversations between Tris and Four or angry fights with bouts of screaming, many of the scenes featured this unneeded intensity that is distracting at times. Apart from these sappy moments or heated discussions, the remainder of the script contains dialogue was very flat, bland, and one-dimensional. However, the exception to this rule would be the exchanges between Tris and Jeanine, which possessed enough zest and ire to harness the essence of their relationship. Luckily, much of the script contained a sufficient mix of planning and backstory to dilute the rather lackluster emotion shown.
Leading the ensemble, Shailene Woodley steps up from her one-dimensional and shallow performance in the first movie and does well at showing Tris’s struggle with her guilty conscience, disturbing nightmares, and reluctance to be the hero. Although more depth should have been present, Woodley portrays her character convincingly enough to communicate her struggle and to make up for the flawed script. Theo James flourishes in his role as Four, providing both the eye candy and the emotional intensity necessary for his character’s experiences. Kate Winslet, as the ruthless Erudite leader Jeanine, gave a chilling and exceptional portrayal of her character that made viewers despise her. Also making a positive impact were Miles Teller, as the comedic traitor Peter, and Jai Courtney as the vicious Dauntless officer Eric. Ansel Elgort, as Tris’s brother Caleb, provided a weak performance, lacking any effort to portray his character with emotion. Throughout the film, the various supporting characters gave convincing performances.
The main strength of this movie is the editing and visual effects bringing the futuristic Chicago world to life. The combination of set creations, costume design, cinematography, and computer generated images were the hallmark of the film, holding the pieces together and capturing the audience’s attention. Although a few of the scenes were glaringly fake looking, most scenes possess spectacular visuals that make up for the mediocre ones. The superior technology and warfare were creatively visualized and portrayed from the novel, allowing the audience to feel the dystopia of Tris’s world and be immersed in the setting. The only downfall of the visual effects was that the action shots fall for the “fast cut” trap at times, and some scenes and transitions appear unclear or blurry. Overall, Insurgent does contain similar flaws to Divergent — the absence of key plot points, repetitive scenes, and bland plotline — but manages to triumph over its predecessor with a shining cast and stunning visuals.