Reviewed by Owen Bush.
Divergent, the predecessor to Insurgent, was a film with large, howling world building elements that may have stranded its action-themed core from fully captivating the audience. With Insurgent, the intensity isn’t wounded, and all elements are notched up to make Insurgent the immersive experience that was really wanted from Divergent. But with this amplified beauty, comes a strange, subtle lack of clarity from its source material and a rather weirdly crafted direction.
Insurgent is definitely a bigger film than Divergent, as the marketing campaign displayed immensely, and it works well with the driving tone; the sense that the writers understood that Insurgent needed to delve deeper into the themes of action and adventure, as well as escapism supplemented with a full, creative reality. The themes explored in Insurgent are subtler than that of the book, but are succeeded with more effort and distinction, allowing the audience and writers to work together to sustain understanding for those who haven’t read the book.
Forgiveness is the core message, and it works incredibly to leave a bitter reminder of how to forgive others, and more importantly, how to forgive yourself. Although this lesson is configured within all the mind-bending buoyancy, it still makes Insurgent lead from its predecessors’ divergence on having a key emotion being accomplished in each film, which rather lacks in many similar films.
The talented cast also effortlessly shines radiantly through Insurgent, likewise to Divergent, possibly even more so. Theo James (Four) and Shailene Woodley (Tris) especially motion towards greatness, with the two having a sincerely strong and prominent connection that is needed to push the story’s massive scope. Kate Winslet is very prominent as the power-hungry, intelligent and sophisticated villain Jeanine. Her and Woodley mark the second act like it’s their own, with style and essence. They bloom, bouncing between their particularly sassy and determined feminine characteristics – the dynamic works freely.
After his sensational, award winning ‘Whiplash’, Miles Teller (Peter) continues to offer brute comedy and fun to the rather emotionally attached movie. He breathes a lot of energy into the thriller, but it’s a shame his snappy one-liners were used in repetition with the trailers, ruining those key, quick moments of comedic action.
While the core actors bounce with motion between each other, the supporting cast that was so desperately cast with attention was far from a success, but it’s not necessarily their fault. Insurgent is a long dwindle without the adding succession of more and more characters for the audience to uphold and remember till next year’s first of the conclusive chapter, Allegiant, and then the finale of the series in 2017. It’s a shame for the loved personalities to be a little wasted in Insurgent, but it’s understandable with the already complex themes that nearly power over the main character itself.
In Divergent, Neil Burger, for me, upheld a sense of glamour and elegance to the destroyed world, and while it may have been done on purpose to suggest the intensity of the war, Robert Schwentke makes Insurgent feel a bit rusty with its mere tones and over-zoomed sequences. While Insurgent doesn’t use its world-building in as big of a theme as Divergent, the world feels slightly empty till the last act, and by that time, you forget the luxuriousness of the directing previously.
The direction feels all a little pantomime, and suffers from one of its biggest attributes – its CGI. Some scenes, including the creepily portrayed Tris vs Tris sequence, are delightfully expanded into the big screen, but with added extras, the CGI feels like an excuse to overexpose the directing into a ridiculous mansion of zooming. This may not be a giant negative, but it does make the movie contrast upon its harsh themes, and feel a little silly.
As previously mentioned, the CGI in Insurgent is phenomenally improved to Divergent – while Schwentke offers a little rust to the scenery, the CGI captivates the audience into one of the largest plots in Insurgent – the simulations. They are vastly entertaining and offer much to the experience. The use of 3D might not be worth it for all scenes, but work smoothly with the simulations, almost perfect to supply the hungry Jeanine with realistic imagery to really force the audience to hate her (and you do!).
In context, Insurgent is based off a widely popular book, and although it may be very similar structurally, the details are insanely different. However, this isn’t a flaw, Insurgent – as a book, was weak with its wavering plot. It did have some superb action (as does the film), but its structure was hard to navigate into cinemas so the addition of the ‘box’ works sufficiently to guide the non-book audience into its story, without confusion or relying on the source.
With this, the film cuts away some bittersweet book moments that momentarily infused the story with comedy and fun (even though Teller brought this in new ways) and this suggests Insurgent was destined for a grittier and darker ride. For its fans (myself included), this was a worry for the writers because if they altered too much of the book, the film would fall flat at box offices due to its fan popularity. Luckily, the motion picture sustained its core message of forgiveness, that for so many teenagers, keeps its moral dignity high; and therefore, I’m sure Insurgent will follow Divergent’s success.
Insurgent upholds its strength as an action-adventure, and while it may not be the most divergent, it gains upon its controlled plot and expansively diverse actors. The pressure is staked with elegance, and the moves and counter-moves between Governments elect the film’s heart-throbbing moral core.