Junior, Journalism major
Insurgent picks up exactly where the prequel left off – Shailene Woodley’s Tris is running for her life, along with scary boyfriend Four (Theo James), her somewhat useless brother Caleb (Ansel Elgort) and reluctant ally Peter (Miles Teller). They’ve just destroyed the simulation that turned their peers into gun-wielding zombies and escaped a showdown with the analytically cold leader of Erudite and film villainess, Jeanine (Kate Winslet). Their flawed faction society is falling apart; it’s time to overthrow the oppressive system and maybe make out a little. It’s a young adult dystopia, after all.
While simplifying the plot of a 500-page book is a necessary evil of aptly telling the same story in 119 minutes, Insurgent was a very different experience from the novel. The general mood of the film matched that of the book, as did the eventual outcome, but many of the similarities end there. Instead, a new plot revolving around a high-tech Pandora’s box and the chosen-one Divergent needed to unlock it (Tris, of course) comes to life. This creates the need for a new series of simulations involving impressive visual effects (clearly putting the extra $25 million in this budget to use) that become a conveniently didactic virtual reality in which she must learn to forgive herself.
The changes to the storyline weren’t all bad, but in creating a more cohesive and simple design, the writing also became more obtuse. It felt like the audience was stomping through the film with the actors. Dialogue was sparse, and what was said lacked finesse and originality. In this process, the film lost some of the intricacies that elevated the book — Christina’s difficult forgiveness; both the light-hearted romance and the heavy and confused tension of Tris and Four’s relationship. Which is a shame, considering Four’s growing weight in the story. In fact, other than Tris, the characters were relegated to rather two-dimensional roles, so the lackluster performances of the actors may not be their fault.
Teller, of Whiplash fame, was the movie’s exception. Infusing his character with snark and surprising charm, Peter is involuntarily likeable, despite his self-serving bias and dubious motives. Woodley achieves the opposite, skillfully portraying an angry and insolent Tris, who’s unlikeable in a genuine way. Tris isn’t a very nice person, but she’s still a badass. Woodley plays the part well, generating most of the movie’s interest.
There were plenty of visually satisfactory action scenes, and narrative twists left the characters and the audience confused about just exactly who, if anyone, could be trusted. But without a strong emotional resonance or a sense of urgency, the thrills fell a little flat and the pacing lagged between fights.
But I’m being too critical. Overall, the movie-going experience was still enjoyable. Not bad for some casual Friday night fun, Insurgent wasn’t disastrous — it just failed to deliver reality-shattering results. Perhaps the film just boasted too many special effects and too little dialogue.
The movie opens in theatres on March 20.