There’s a good movie hidden somewhere inside Insurgent, but it struggles to come out. All of the pieces are there, with nice action sequences and some solid performances, but whatever is left of a plot is simply fraying at the edges. The result is a sloppy film, that feels cobbled together, with little narrative cohesion. It’s not a misfire, but the Divergent series is turning out to be quite the snoozer.
Insurgent picks up where Divergent left off, with Tris, Four, and the rest of the Dauntless rebels escaping the city to gather allies for the attack on Erudite, led by the nefarious Jeanine. I’m a fan of the book series, and while I thought Insurgent was by far the weakest, I didn’t think it was this weak. Director Robert Schwentke and his screenwriting team have made significant changes to the core material. Normally I don’t mind when things are changed for a film adaptation, but some of the changes are straight up bizarre, and make no sense in the overall narrative. They added a “box” that only divergents can open as a sort of “one ring” for the franchise, but this is ridiculous and only serves purpose to show Kate Winslet’s acting strengths.
A few other changes make Insurgent feel less like the second of a trilogy, and just more of the same from Divergent. In The Hunger Games’s second film (a book adaptation done right), things are changed, but they ramp up the action, romance, and drama to make an altogether more thrilling film. Insurgent is just a snoozefest sometimes. There isn’t a sense of urgency, so vital in the novel, that is just absent here. Random characters popping in and out only never to be seen again, plot inconsistencies, a ridiculous ending. Man, this movie just did not make any sense. I’d almost recommend not reading the book and seeing it as a non-book reader. Seems like Roth took out everything that made the books special for this film adaptation.
Like I said, though, Insurgent isn’t a total flop. The pieces are there, they’re just scattershot. I love the ideals that being divergent represents, and both the book and film series hit these themes well. Seeing Chicago all torn up allows for some cool imagery, and all of the five factions have their own unique flair. Take Amity for instance: a farm village run by kindness. Contrast it with Erudite: towering technological fortresses and stoicism. The five factions are very cool and very unique, and the film retains the best parts of what made the first film so great.
Acting this time around is good, not great. Shailene Woodley, whom I loved in the first film, doesn’t have as many good moments here. She has some badass action heroine scenes, to be sure, but nothing that makes her performance anything but standard. Same with Theo James. I left the film feeling like their chemistry had worn off significantly. The key to romantic pairings like these in young adult films is to ramp up the heat each film, and Insurgent is a missed opportunity for the both of them. The rest of the supporting cast is similarly average. Kate Winslet is solid like always, Miles Teller is the film’s only comedic grace, Ansel Elgort is boring as all get out. Talented performers all of them, they just don’t have much to work with.
This makes me worry for Allegiant, which is ridiculously being split into two parts. The Divergent franchise needs to get back on track, fix the structural messes, ramp up the chemistry, and just make things more interesting. Insurgent is one more plot hole away from being a disaster, but right now it’s simply watchable. It’s pretty short, some cool visuals keep things interesting, and I guess I could say I was intrigued all the way through. But this movie could have been a hell of a lot more.