Insurgent Review: A Poor Follow Up to Divergent
Insurgent wasn’t exactly the epic follow-up that Divergent fans were hoping it would be. While the first film was full of action packed sequences and excitement – everyone came out at least thinking it was an enjoyable time, if they didn’t think it was a masterpiece – Insurgent was a stagnant second act.
The Divergent series stars Tris Prior (Shailene Woodley), a girl growing up in a post-apocalyptic city. Everyone in the society is placed in one of the five factions: Erudite, Dauntless, Abnegation, Candor, and Amity. Each Faction values the trait they are named after and the core idea of the society is that these factions help keep peace. Different factions have different ways of living, different ways of interacting, different places to live, and different ways to dress.
When teenagers turn sixteen, they are tested to see which faction they fit into best. But, to be fair, each kid gets to choose a new faction over the faction they grew up in if they want. Tris grew up in Abnegation and worries if she is selfless enough to fit in. On the day of her test, though, it turns out she’s Divergent, meaning that she doesn't fit into any one faction but several. She faces a tough choice and ultimately chooses to be part of the warrior faction, Dauntless.
The first movie explored Tris coming to terms with who she is without the rules of her family and her old Faction. Over the course of the movie, she trains and makes friends and most importantly, both she and the audience start to get a real idea of who she is and the role she’ll eventually play when the political power struggle comes to light. All the political undertones remain undertones until the end of the movie, when each little clue given comes together and makes a believable but surprising ending.
This wasn’t the case with Insurgent. Tris has a savior complex, her boyfriend Four (the incredibly handsome Theo James) is willing to sacrifice everything for her, and she is, of course, the chosen one who will break open their oppressive society. While all these details were included in the first movie, it had seeds of originality. The plot of Insurgent, however, was so predictable that each scene could have been stolen from a million other movies. Even if the movie hadn’t been predictable down to the very last minute, it focused far too much on the political power struggle as the Erudite faction tries to forcibly maintain order and hunt Tris and her friends down. Every single plot point of the power struggle is presented to the screen, spelling out exactly every detail several times over. There was no guesswork to figuring out the motives of the villain and the leader of Erudite, Jeanine Matthews.
The political plot is messy, hard to follow, and didn’t wrap up neatly, leaving the audience with lots of questions. Because of the heavy politics plot, it felt like nothing actually happened in the movie. There weren’t even that many action scenes to balance it out, so the audience didn’t get the adrenaline rush like in the first.
There weren’t enough characters, either, to make up for the poor plot lines. Insurgent lost of lot of the core characters that were present in the first film. Many died or defected or simple didn’t get any screen time and the only three characters constantly on screen enough to remember their names were Tris, her boyfriend Four, and their acquaintance Peter. The rest of the characters got one or two personality traits and sometimes a name and mostly just got dropped in for sixty seconds of effect.
Even Tris and Four didn’t get that much character development. While Shailene Woodley did what she could with the character, Tris wasn’t the dynamic girl we saw in the first movie. The writers left Tris’ character largely unexplored in favor of focusing on her obvious surface development, like her grief over her family’s death, without the audience getting to see anything deeper. Miles Teller did an excellent job as the self-serving Peter, a snarky boy from Dauntless, and while he didn’t get any development either, at least he was entertaining to watch on the screen. Worst of all was Four, who the writers didn’t give a second glance. They left Theo James to do his best with the remnants of his character from the last movie, and Theo did an amazing job, at hinting at some sort of depth, since the only character trait Four displays in the entire film is his love for Tris.
While it may have been Four’s only personality trait or motive, the romantic plot between him and Tris was excellently done. There was no love triangle in this film and the couple didn’t have the angst that so many other films did. In the first movie, they established that they were into each other and in the second, they were in a stable relationship, supporting each other through the rough times. There wasn’t half of film of miscommunication and misconstrued “we-can’t-date-because-”s that every other genre has. They clearly cared about each other, they clearly had chemistry, and they knew each other very well. Four never tried to insist Tris couldn’t take care of herself, and she relied on him while not being weak. This was honestly a perfect couple and I loved being able to see a movie where the romantic subplot wasn’t shoved in my face, it was just nicely chilling in the background.
Ultimately, all the things that made Divergent great were lost in the second film. The political power struggles were too highlighted while the character development and ensemble cast were lost. Divergent made a name for itself because of its focus on Tris and how she found herself in her new faction and that was completely lacking in the second film. Without that focus on identity, the film lost something and nothing about the rest of the movie was good enough to make up for it.