When “Divergent” came out, it got swept under the rug because it was mainly seen as the franchise’s way of leeching off the success of “The Hunger Games” series. I went in with the lowest expectations possible and came out pleasantly surprised. Shailene Woodley was one of those actresses to watch out for at that time and for good reason; she can lead a film based on her charm and personality. “Divergent” had its fair share of problems but, overall, was a decent film. “Insurgent” on the other hand, was a big step down.
Three days after her escape from Erudite Leader Jeanine [Kate Winslet], Divergent Tris [Shailene Woodley] is still on the run with her boyfriend Four [Theo James]. In this world, Divergents are seen as threats to the entire faction system. These people really come into play when Jeanine discovers a box. This box contains a message from the ancestors outside the wall of Chicago and can only be opened when a Divergent passes all of its simulations. It’s then up to Tris to decide whether she should turn herself in or kill Jeanine to stop the bloodshed.
“Insurgent” feels like a part two in every way. It takes place only moments after “Divergent” and feels like the second half of a film. Because of this, the film doesn’t have a three-act structure. The glue that held it together was Shailene Woodley once again.
She does the best she can with what she’s given and, in some moments, got really emotional. One of her best scenes is when she’s put on trial in the Condor faction. Otherwise, she plays the role just like last time, save some developments towards the end of the film.
The other stand-outs are Kate Winslet, Miles Teller and Jai Courtney. They are all clearly having a good time playing these villainous roles in different ways. Kate is more calm and collective, Miles says whatever is on his mind and Jai might as well be a bad guy in an 80s action movie.
Then actors like Theo James and Ansel Elgort take over, leaving dedicated actors like Octavia Spencer and Naomi Watts in the dust. Theo and Ansel don’t have much of a character because they didn’t matter one way or another. There’s a plot, kind of, but no story to back it up. The movie transitions from scene to scene with no real structure. The entire second half of “Insurgent” is Tris engaging through a bunch of tests in a dreamlike environment. It looks nice, but that’s all there is to it.
Of course, the final book is being split into two movies and, because of this, the ending sets itself up where a sequel is inevitable. I’m interested to see where it goes next, but I’m not exactly looking forward to it.
I was hoping that this could have been the “Catching Fire” of this series. But instead it felt more like a prolonged set-up than a stand alone film. Despite some good action sequences and a few decent performances, “Insurgent” doesn’t live up to its predecessor.
Matt Bilodeau can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org