Review: The Divergent Series: Insurgent – Adaptation sacrifices originality for world building

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THE LATEST phase in dystopian films, with the likes of The Hunger Games and The Maze Runner series, has a seen a number of similarly-themed movies come to our screens. The Divergent series is one that I discovered last year with the release of the first film Divergent, which I enjoyed due to its credibility in its own right and interesting storyline. This review, however, is for its sequel: Insurgent, the film based on the second book in Veronica Roth’s trilogy.

Insurgent kicks off right where Divergent left off, with our protagonists Tris (Shailene Woodley) and Four (Theo James) in hiding after their escape from the caste system and the evil adversary that is Jeanine (Kate Winslet). This film surprised me due to it being fast-paced, I went in with the notion of a middle film in a trilogy (now quartet with the film industry’s capitalist nature) and therefore thought we would have a slow build up towards the final confrontation in the final film.

Having not read the books, I was in the dark. Thus, I was surprised when there was a considerable amount of story in this film, and at such a pace and with such an ending that it can easily stand on its own and you don’t feel like you were just being strung along until the climatic final in the next film. Likewise, newcomers are given enough of an introduction to the film that they won’t feel completely lost if they haven’t seen Divergent (but you can’t go wrong to catch up).

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The largest addition to this film comes in the form of a box. Yes, a box. This box holds a secret that Jeanine is desperate to uncover, for she believes it will give the answers everyone needs with regards to the ‘Divergent problem’. The twist being that only a Divergent can open the box. Guess who has the right amount of divergence to do it? You guessed it, our favourite lost soul: Tris.

I may sound like I’m mocking here, I’m not… well, I am a bit, but not in so far as to say I didn’t enjoy the film. What it lacked in originality, it made up for in pace and some richly crafted scenes. We were given everything from Matrix-style fight scenes (although the CGI did have its suspect moments), to more views of a well-crafted world, including the introduction of the Factionless, which I wish there was more time to explore.

This is one of my main issues with the film: the fundamental lack of depth in places. It would have been better in my mind to delve deeper into these worlds and characters that we are introduced to. Though I do understand how that would have taken away from the aforementioned pace of the film – and it is breakneck – I was left wanting more.

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The cast continues to perform well. Woodley in particular strives to make Tris a comprehensive character with varying relations with the cast and a continuing romance with Four. James also does well to develop the character of Four as the film progresses. It would have been nice to see more of Caleb (Ansel Elgort) and see more of how he develops. Likewise, the new addition of Octavia Spencer as Johanna Reyes was given very little screen time.

Despite this, her scenes were played well and you could see that Spencer brought her considerable experience to the role. I found myself enjoying Winslet in her role, albeit there were moments when she seemed somewhat stoic and robotic, but I think that aided in creating the right feel for the character.

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I certainly enjoyed this film more than I did the recent The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1, due to the fact that there was simply much more happening in Insurgent. There was a more vested interest in being able to experience more of the rich world that has been created here. I wouldn’t say it surpassed Divergent for me, but it certainly equalled it.

Despite the genre’s over-exposure at the moment, leading to the question of diminishing returns as far as originality goes, there is still a certain level of depth and creativeness within Insurgent that makes it enjoyable to watch. Lastly, with Insurgent‘s ending being as it was, I have no idea what to expect from the final two films. That can only be a good thing.

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