“You are living proof that the divergent problem has grown beyond all control.”
Director Robert Schwentke (RED, RIPD) replaced Neil Burger for the Divergent sequel which is much bigger, louder, and action packed. I actually ended up mildly recommending the first film which I found engaging enough thanks to Shailene Woodley’s lead performance. Unfortunately, Insurgent is a step down for the franchise because bigger doesn’t necessarily mean better. The action scenes look great and the film is very pretty to look at, but the main issue I have here is with the story which I felt was so convoluted that I wasn’t able to engage with any of the characters. I honestly couldn’t remember much of what had happened in Divergent (which means it didn’t really make an impact on me the first time around), but we get enough flashbacks and exposition here to recall some of the important events. We are also introduced to the two other factions that the first one left out (amity and candid) so we get new characters that mostly appear on screen for a couple of minutes. Octavia Spencer is the leader of amity and Daniel Dae Kim of candid. Insurgent also introduces us to the factualness who are led by Naomi Watt’s Evelyn. So Insurgent basically ha the same flaws most sequels do, which is try to make everything bigger and it ends up crowding the screenplay and leaving little room for character development. Sure, some of the action scenes are great (mostly the first couple of scenes) but I simply lost interest in the story and found it incredibly tedious and boring. By the end I didn’t really care what could happen to any of the characters. I haven’t had much luck with Schwentke’s films recently and would’ve preferred Burger continued directing the franchise instead. If you are a fan of Veronica Roth’s YA novels you probably will enjoy this, but I’m not familiar with her work and didn’t enjoy this film at all.
Insurgent takes place right after the events of Divergent so if you haven’t watched the first film you might feel lost. Basically, the story is set in a dystopian future where society is divided into five factions based on people’s virtues. Jeanine (Kate Winslet) is the head of the erudite (the intelligent faction) who basically has control over this wrecked city surrounded by giant walls which separate them from the vast outdoor wasteland. The heroine of the franchise is Tris (Shailene Woodley) who discovers she’s divergent because she doesn’t fit into one faction, but decides however she wants to be Dauntless (the more adventurous and fearless members of society who become the protectors of the city). Here she falls in love with Four (Theo James), befriends Christina (Zoe Kravitz), and is bullied by Peter (Miles Teller) and Eric (Jai Courtney) who are all returning characters in the sequel. In Divergent, Tris discovers that her kind isn’t accepted in society believing they are a threat for not fitting in. She also discovers that Jeanine is planning on taking over the rest of the factions beginning with Abnegation which is where her parents (Tony Goldwyn and Ashley Judd) reside. Her parents are killed in the attack but she eventually stops Jeanine’s plan. Insurgent picks up right after the attack as we follow the surviving fugitives hiding out with the Amity faction. Tris’s brother, Caleb (Ansel Elgort) is also with them. Jeanine will stop at nothing to capture Tris discovering she’s a valuable asset.
The plot in insurgent felt much weaker and the film focuses mainly on the action sequences. There are way too many characters introduced, which is a shame because it diverts the attention at times from the main ones. Shailene Woodley gives a solid performance but she didn’t carry the film this time around. I found her character a bit less charismatic since she spends most of the film feeling guilty and unable to forgive herself for the loss of her parents and friends. Theo James isn’t any better either and the romantic chemistry that existed in the first film grows weak this time around. Ansel Elgort is devoid of all the charm he brought to the table in The Fault of Our Stars (it is weird seeing him play Woodley’s sister in this film after being her love interest). My favorite performance in this sequel surprisingly came from Miles Teller who doesn’t get much screen time but shines in the few scenes he’s in. The villains aren’t actually very menacing and everything about this sequel felt more boring and tedious to me. Even the simulation and dream sequences are a bit of a letdown and took me away from the film completely.