Here is the thing with adaptations that act as middle part of a franchise, the film lacks a conclusion needed to hook the audience in for the final film – or should I say two films since splitting the final book into two parts is the norm. Many of these adaptations suffer from this ordeal, and it only stands to reason that if these kinds of films aren’t rushing to meet a deadline they can be considered quite good. And so we have The Divergent Series: Insurgent, a film based on the second book of a YA trilogy that has everything you could imagine seeing in a middle part of a franchise, and gives you nothing for you to care about the next installment.
Whatever vague and loose similarities Insurgent may draw from, it really doesn’t do much to stand out from its YA adaptation crowd. But devout fans may have no problem overlooking the narrative flaws in the film and accept the fact that the characters didn’t bring the personality to the sequel. And that’s okay. But Insurgent is tonally lost and thematically repetitive, and it’s dull characters makes the film boring and uninteresting.
Set in a dysoptian (surprise) Chicago, Tris (Shailene Woodley), our lead heroine (surprise again) who is a divergent (a person one of the few who possesses all special five skills: Abnegation (the selfless), Amity (the peaceful), Candor (the honest), Dauntless (the brave), and Erudite (the intelligent) (surprise, surprise), who is the only one who can save a nation from a totalitarian government (triple surprise). But, Insurgent makes no effort to bring those who didn’t see the last film up to speed and carelessly throws them into the deep end of the pool expecting them to know that the hell is going on.
Currently on the run from the ruthless dictator Jeanine (Kate Winslet) (um surprise), Tris and Four (Theo James) are desperately searching for allies to join them in their quest to stop her from opening a box that holds a message from the founders of the new government.
The film never really addresses why possessing all five skills can be perceived as a threat to the government or its people. One might think that Jeanie could use them as some sort of elite guard or squad to protect the current government instead of using the dauntless. Then there is the doohickey, a box that the dauntless found in the remains of a city, which she believes will hold the key to strengthen her hold if she opens it – in which she doesn’t really need to because in the film she already has a pretty tight grip.
The only problem is the box can only be opened by someone who passes all five tests. So Jeanine goes on a divergent witch hunt, and soon discovers that Tris is the only one who can do it. Meanwhile the longer that Tris waits, the more people die, and soon Jeanie will force her hand to come out of hiding. Unable to come to terms with more death on her conscious, Tris makes the decision that could decide the fate of all factions on her own.
Insurgent pretty much plays out like every middle of the trilogy film we have seen before: dull and formulatic. Filler to an end which most of us already have an idea for if we didn’t already take a peek on Wikipedia.
The one-dimensional characters doesn’t add much to the actual narrative. Everyone in it clearly suffer from a huge lack of development. No one’s motives are clear – and I don’t say that as a good thing where it keeps the audience hooked. There is nothing organic about the chemistry between our teenage heroes. It becomes apparent that everyone present in the film, including Ansel Elgort, Miles Teller, Octavia Spencer, Jai Courtney, Mekhi Phifer, and Daniel Dae Kim are there just to collect a nice franchise paycheck.
Taking away those narrative layers and character development, and replacing it with flashy visual effects just add to the idea that Insurgent is more style over substance. When it comes to action sequences and accounting for the dead, it is hard to keep an exact body count, in fact it is hard to keep track of who stays alive because there are just so many damn factionless running around. The idea that Tris is the only one who can open the damn box is predictable and makes Brian Duffield, Akiva Goldsman, and Mark Bomback look lazy. It’s even harder to take any of the characters seriously and believe their intentions since so many of them flip-flopping between various factions.
Sure visual aspects of the Sim trials are dazzling to look at, but with the vapid narrative, the entire sequence looks more like an attachment you would turn in with a resume for a visual effects position. It does, however, feel more like a polished version of being plugged into the Matrix, so I guess the film has that going for it. Watching the simulation cease is pretty cool, and is exceptionally cool when it is in 3D.
Insurgent would rather spend most of its time connected to dreams and sims that it forgets to forge a connection with its audience, who are actually real, and probably will not care what happens to post-apocalyptic Chicago by the end of the film. Devoid of any sort of urgency, our uninteresting heroes do their job in an otherwise uncompelling story, but fail to get out of the tonal mess that is The Divergent Series: Insurgent