Insurgent Review

The Plot:

In a post-apocalyptic society strictly divided into casts by personality types, Tris Prior and her fellow ‘Divergent’ renegades that defy classification, must find a way to fight back against the sinister forces determined to take control of what’s left of human civilization. As Tris battles her inner demons, the shifting loyalties of her friends, family and even enemies test her like never before.

The Good:

Picking up mere days after the events of the first film, Insurgent promises fans answers to some of the questions and emotional issues left unresolved during the frantic climax of Divergent. The film makes the most of a clearly improved budget to explore the ruined remains of Chicago and the even more fantastical world of the virtual reality tests Tris must overcome.

Theo James is still appropriately rugged as Tris’s handsome love interest Four and Shailene Woodley remains a welcome alternative to the typical damsel in distress cliché that so often ruins action blockbusters. The mere presence of talents like Miles Teller, Ansel Elgort and Kate Winslet also immediately improve the attention span of audiences. It gives at least the impression of substance behind even admittedly threadbare and predictable material.

Those that found the deadly virtual reality games that tested Tris in the first film interesting, will be pleased to see that concept taken to even more elaborate places. It gives the film an excuse to escape an otherwise generic and dreary dystopia and at least insert some CGI heavy fantasy action sequences.

The Bad:

Fans of the book series and first film will welcome the continuation of the Divergent saga, but for the uninitiated this will prove a confusing and disappointing experience. Though the film makes a cursory effort to explain the situation with a quick opening monologue, in truth if you haven’t seen the first film you’ll be left entirely lost.

Sadly like all the other recent ‘young adult’ franchises the Divergent series struggles to maintain the relative promise of its first big screen outing. The first film offered a moderately intriguing tale of a dystopian future and misguided social engineering. The sequel continues that adventure with an obviously bigger budget, a lot more angst but far less novelty.

Shailene Woodley is a talented young actress but her character is simply far too preoccupied with self-doubt and recriminations. It’s so unnecessary and unhelpful it often threatens to make Tris more irritating than inspiring. In one scene our hero literally ‘squeaks’ with discomfort whilst confessing her feelings of guilt over past deeds. Perhaps all the tears, self-loathing and melodrama will be less distracting and annoying for a target audience of teenagers, but grown-ups may find it far harder to empathise.

Though Insurgent boasts a cast that includes Miles Teller, Ansel Elgot and Kate Winselt the sad truth is that none of them ever have the slightest chance to demonstrate their undoubted talents. Somehow Insurgent manages to make every character feel like they’re being given insufficient screen time and lacks emotional depth or complexity. Even when characters make supposedly dramatic decisions or betrayals, it feels irrelevant because there’s so little emotional investment in proceedings.

Only fans of the actual books will be able to tell whether something has been lost in translation to screen, or if characters motives really were always so poorly defined and explored in the original story.

Though the film spends a big chunk of time and its bloated budget putting Tris back into elaborate virtual realities, it’s just a transparent excuse for expensive superhero style action sequences. Again it’s impossible to really care about what happens as both the characters and audiences are fully aware that it’s never real. It doesn’t matter if people die or entire cities crumble, because nothing is actually happening.

Overall Insurgent’s biggest failing is that despite all its troubled nightmares, dramatic haircuts and angst ridden dialogue its almost entirely lacking in actual emotional substance. It simply lumbers through predictable story arcs merely out of an unfortunate obligation to perpetuate a valuable ‘franchise’.

The Ugly Truth:

Unless you’re already a devoted fan of the Divergent series, it’s probably best to avoid getting involved at this stage. Insurgent is a typical blockbuster sequel that feels mostly superfluous and redundant. Occasional bursts of CGI action and the mere presence of a talented cast can’t disguise that fact that the entire film feels at best like a set up for a hopefully more interesting third chapter.

Our chat with Ansel Elgot about the Divergent Sequel and Shailene Woodley below:

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