Directed by Robert Schwentke
Written by Brian Duffield, Akiva Goldsman and Mark Bomback
Having been a big fan of the Harry Potter series, the literature that kicked off the recent young adult trend in both book and film series, I cannot fault either the authors or the studios for capitalizing on what is a pretty great business opportunity. And if that sounded fairly cynical, it was not meant to be, as I fully support the fad, which has produced plenty of entertainment for the young adult crowd. I cannot speak to the quality of series such as Percy Jackson or even for that matter the literature quality if the Divergent series this film finds itself in, but if it gets the younger generation reading, and thinking critically about any number of topics, then I suppose it can’t be all bad for the sake of some entertainment. And for that matter, the first film in this series, Divergent, laid the groundworks for what could be a very promising series.
Adding to the faction social structure built in its predecessor, Insurgent moves past the societal pressures and separation and moves more toward the towering conflict that was promised by the conclusion of Divergent. Identified as a divergent, someone who does not fit into a single faction, Tris (Shailene Woodley) is beginning to feel the weight of the situation in which she finds herself: the leader of a revolutionary group set to bring down the faction structure, and the rogue leader of Erudite, Jeanine (Kate Winslet), who has made it her mission to not only discredit the divergent population, but to round them up and eliminate them. Faced with love, loss, friends, family and revolution, Tris struggles to identify who believes herself to be, and to find her true path in what has morphed from a peaceful to a tumultuous society.
The mess of the situation finds itself rooted in flimsy directing, and perhaps even flimsier writing. Who the blame should go to may be uncertain, as I quest to find such a soul, but ultimately it matters not, as the film is disjointed at best, and a complete mess at worst. Not knowing enough about the production, I found the film taking multiple leaps of faith within the framework of the plot, trusting, one presumes, that the viewer has read the source material and therefore can fill in the cracks left by the resulting film. Whether this was actual strategy, or a missed continuity exercise on behalf of the writing/directing/editing team, what results is an overly broad and somewhat confusing story, which is a shame given not only the promise of the story, but also the runtime, which comes in at 20 minutes shorter than the first film.
Perhaps they should have used their time a little more wisely to fully flesh out the ideas brought forth in Insurgent, but be that as it may, there were still some positives to take home. For one, the youthful cast was quite good and show the promise of years to come. In what has seemingly become the Shailene triangle, Woodley, Miles Teller and Ansel Elgort (The Spectacular Now and The Fault in our Stars), are the stars of the show. Teller, perhaps the most promising of the trio, is a scene stealer in his supporting role, but Shailene Woodley proves once again that she is more than capable of handling the duties of leading lady. Her Tris is as strong, yet vulnerable, as ever. With the vets (Naomi Watts, Ashley Judd, Octavia Spencer) left more to the side, I loved seeing the young cast left with the responsibility of carrying the film. Unfortunately Kate Winslet, a normally reliable powerhouse, is the one veteran cast member who chews up the scenery around her.
In some ways, this sequel plays by the rules and manages to break them at the same time. One of the typical rules of trilogies (counting the final two films as one since they are part 1 and 2) states that the second installment should always be the darkest. That much is true, as the violence and depression is amped up almost to an alarming degree given the film’s PG-13 rating, especially concerning the violence. But Insurgent seems to break the rules by coming to a much more conclusive ending than most, which turns out to be a strength. With the way the film chooses to end, I am endlessly curious as to where the story will take us over the next two films. So while I enjoyed the first, and was disappointed by the second film in the Divergent series, I have been moved to remain on board with the series, at least for now. Let’s just hope that by splitting the third book into two films, the filmmakers deliver a more jointed story than we see here.
**1/2 – Average