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Review: The Divergent Series: Insurgent (2015)

The Divergent Series: Insurgent (2015)

Directed by: Robert Schwentke

Premise: A follow up to 2014’s Divergent. Picking up right after the events of the first film, Tris (Shailene Woodley) and her companions are pursued by authorities who need her talents to unlock a secret artifact.

What Works: Insurgent is a better movie than its predecessor. Director Robert Schwentke and cinematographer Florian Ballhaus consistently keep the camera on the move with zooms or pans in nearly every shot. Surprisingly this does not get obnoxious and it energizes the material. Insurgent is also better paced than Divergent. The sequel moves along briskly and it has some interesting editing choices as the story moves from one scene or location to the next. The action scenes are also a bit better. Where the action of Divergent was often silly, the same scenes in Insurgent have a bit more edge and frequently have a little more going on in regard for character and plot. Shailene Woodley returns in the central role of Tris and Insurgent calls upon her dramatic skills much more than the first film, which allows Woodley to play to her strengths as an actress. There are also some interesting things going on in the background of this story. A few new characters are introduced and not everyone is who they initially appear to be and that allows for a few surprises.

What Doesn’t: Although Insurgent is a better movie than Divergent, it continues most of the major problems of the series. One of these is the miscasting of Shailene Woodley. She acquits herself in the dramatic scenes but Woodley just isn’t convincing as an action hero. But the most serious problem of Divergent—and the one that Insurgent really has no way to solve—is that the premise of the story is stupid. The underlying idea is a little provocative but the way it has been dramatized in the Divergent story world is dumb. This is an example of a sci-fi dystopian story whose concept is too complicated. It may have worked in a young adult novel but on the movie screen it becomes too top heavy and the conceit collapses under the weight of its own incredulousness. The filmmakers of Insurgent exacerbate that problem because so little of the world that they’ve created is coherent. The filmmakers thrust the audience into this world without the basic exposition to understand who these organizations and people are and what their relationships are to one another. The movie consists of a small group of people running away from another, larger group of people, and eventually taking shelter with a third and fourth group of people. Everyone is anonymous and it’s never clear what anyone wants or why. Insurgent is bereft of tension. There is nothing at stake in this story. The chief villain, played by Kate Winslet, needs Tris to unlock the secret of an ancient artifact. But what that artifact will do is never clear up until the very end of the movie so it never matters if the villainess gets her way or not. The same problem exists in the love story. The heroine and one of the anonymous male models that make up the supporting cast of Insurgent are in love. We know this only because they say so but the characters never do anything to attest that love and there is no romantic heat between Shailene Woodley and Theo James. The poor plotting and lack of stakes becomes quite obvious in the ending. The filmmakers employ a deus ex machina resolution in which the heroes are saved by the miraculous appearance of their comrades. This is usually done because the storyteller has written him or herself into a narrative corner but in the case of Insurgent so much of the movie is random and uninteresting that the film does not really come to a conclusion so much as it just stops.

Bottom Line: Insurgent may be an improvement over its predecessor but it still isn’t a very good movie. The film is full of dull characters doing uninteresting things and there’s no compelling reason to care about any of it.

Episode: #535 (March 29, 2015)