Directed by Robert Schwentke. Produced by Douglas Wick, Lucy Fisher, and Pouya Shabazian. Written by Brian Duffield, Akiva Goldsman, and Mark Bomback. Release date: March 20, 2015.
It was announced right after Divergent was released that not only would the final two novels in the trilogy be adapted into films, but the final book – taking inspiration from The Hunger Games and Harry Potter – would be split into two. Given that Divergent‘s plot could have been converted to about 30 minutes of film, and Insurgent suffers from the same problem, perhaps instead of expanding three books into four films, it should have been three books condensed into a single movie. 30 minutes dedicated to Divergent, 30 minutes (at most) given to Insurgent, and 45 minutes for Allegiant. That would have had the potential to be a great movie. Instead of that, though, we’re stuck slogging through Insurgent. Because money.
We once again follow Tris Prior (Shailene Woodley). Last film, she broke free from the oppressive “class” system around which this universe is based, escaping the clutches of the evil Jeanine (Kate Winslet) in the process. Tris is a “divergent,” which means that she doesn’t fit into any one class. In other words, she’s special. And, boy, if you didn’t understand how special she was after the last film, you’re going to in this one. Insurgent literally has a character say something along the lines of “we need to find the special one” before cutting right to Tris. Subtlety is not its strong suit.
This is a young adult dystopian movie, which means that the government is oppressive, our hero is free-thinking and “special,” and that’s the only real conflict at hand. Divergent focused more heavily on that than this one does. In Insurgent, our heroes hide, run, hide, and then do the exact opposite of that so that we can have our final confrontation. It once again feels like it’s more world-building than it is actually telling a story. It’s narratively muddled and meandering, using its downtime to set pieces in motion that likely won’t pay off for another two movies. It also takes far too long to do that. All of Insurgent could be told in a quarter of the time if one wanted a significantly increased pace.
The point being made here is that it’s a boring movie. It’s filled with characters that are impossible to care about, situations that are repetitive, characters who switch allegiances on a dime and without much reason or explanation – which means they have about as much impact as a Big Show heel/face turn – and much less action than one might hope for. Good actors wind up stooping down to the material instead of elevating it to their level, the most depth any character gets comes from a monologue delivered late into the picture, and it’s all so depressingly mediocre. I wish it was worse, just because then it’d be worth hating. As it is, it’s just bland.
Insurgent is another in a series of dystopian young adult movies that you shouldn’t waste your time watching.
Now, to be fair, there are about 20 minutes of Insurgent that are really fun. There’s a MacGuffin that contains five simulations that only Tris can hope to complete – because she’s the special one – and when we finally get to the point at which she actually gets to do that, Insurgent becomes enjoyable. Things actually start to happen, characters get deeper, there’s some good action, and we get at least some justification for why Tris is considered so special. It’s too bad that this only happens after we’ve already been bored for 90 minutes; by the time Insurgent starts to get interesting, it’s too late.
There are a few action scenes earlier on, but they’re relatively brief and overshadowed by the long stretches of nothing. One scene on a train is enjoyable – and surprisingly brutal – but it only lasts a couple of minutes at most. A later scene has a bunch of military guys shooting tranquilizer darts at everyone, and might have been fun if Tris – who is immune because she’s special, okay? – wound up fighting them, but that never actually happens. That scene is an extremely elaborate way just to make us understand that Tris is the most powerful of all the divergents, which if you hadn’t grasped by that point, you’re not paying attention.
The most disappointing thing about Insurgent is the talented cast it managed to rope into its mediocrity. Shailene Woodley is an incredibly talented young actor, showing her talents in films like The Descendants or The Spectacular Now. She’s just not any good here. As her co-star, Theo James delivers little depth. Together, the two have little-to-no chemistry; you can’t believe in their romance. The likes of Kate Winslet, Miles Teller, Octavia Spencer, Ansel Elgort, and new-to-the-series Naomi Watts are all bland and uninteresting in their various roles. And the less said about Jai Courtney, the better.
With less on its mind, just as much boring world-building, and a waste of an even more talented cast, about the only thing that Insurgent has going for it is that it kept its running time to under two hours, which means that, if you wind up watching it, you’re wasting slightly less of your life. Outside of a 20-minute stretch when – gasp! – things actually start to get interesting, Insurgent is a mediocre, meandering mess of a movie that’ll more likely put you to sleep than raise your heartbeat even a touch. Thanks to shallow characters, a repetitive and dull plot that could have been told in about a quarter of the time, and great actors who turn in lackluster performance to match the quality of the material, Insurgent is another in a series of dystopian young adult movies that you shouldn’t waste your time watching.
Bottom Line: 20 minutes of goodness aren’t worth sitting through the rest of this boring movie.
Recommendation: If you didn’t hate the first one, you’re likely going to stick around for the rest of them. If you didn’t see the first one, this one isn’t worth it, either.[rating=2]