Directed by: Robert Schwentke
Screenplay by: Brian Duffield, Akiva Goldsman and Mark Bomback
Based on the book by: Veronica Roth
Produced by: Douglas Wick, p.g.a., Lucy Fisher, p.g.a, Pouya Shahbazian
Executive Producers: Neil Burger, David Hoberman, Todd Lieberman, and Barry H. Waldman
Starring: Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Kate Winslet, Jai Courtney, Mekhi Phifer, Ansel Elgort, Miles Teller, Naomi Watts, Maggie Q
Running Time: 119 Minutes
Rating: M (Science fiction themes and violence)
I’ve been looking forward to watching Insurgent for a very long time, and was finally able to do so this weekend thanks to the double pass the lovely folks at HarperCollins AU sent to me. I have lots of thoughts!
Quick Verdict: A strong adaptation that remains true to the vision of the first movie. The cinematography and score are again flawless, the action and plotting are tight, and Kate Winslet is scary.
I’ve always thought this series has been well cast, and have admired the interpretations the actors have given their characters. A lot of people have expressed surprise, for example, that Shailene Woodley (Tris) cut her hair so short for Insurgent (a left-ver from her Hazel Grace days, it looks like). Readers were probably expecting Tris to have a bob or something, but I like the new hair and what it represents. Along with Tris’ wardrobe in this sequel, her hair makes her look bad-ass and determined. It’s also more practical considering the things she gets up to in the movie.
I think Theo James brought Four to life brilliantly as well. He didn’t have a lot to do in Divergent except to look pretty and occasionally scare the recruits, and it was only the action sequence at the end that really showed us the range of his skills. Insurgent expands on the character, with Four struggling to balance what he wants and what he knows is right, confronting Evelyn and trying to curb Tris’ thirst for revenge. My only regret is that Four didn’t get much screen-time with his father, I think it would have helped round his character out.
Kate Winslet is superb as Jeanine. The audience would be hard-pressed to look away any time she’s on the screen, and her character has some great moments throughout the movie. Winslet and Woodley also play off well against each-other in the scenes they share.
I’ll briefly mention the other characters. We don’t see much of Zoë Kravitz as Christina, which is a damned crying shame because the dynamic between Christina and Tris has always been something I’ve loved about the books. However, Miles Teller’s Peter gets a lot of screen time and audiences will spend most of their time trying to figure out which side he’s on. Ansel Elgort is brilliant as Caleb, bringing the conflict between his cold intellect and love for his sister vividly to life. One of the highlights of the movie is Caleb’s awkward run, his arms flailing every which-way as he tries to keep up with the Dauntless trained Tris and Four.
Of the new additions, Octavia Spencer’s Johanna (the leader of Amity) is admirable and strong despite the brevity of her scenes, and Daniel Dae Kim’s portrayal of Jack Kang, the leader of Candor, is powerful. I’m looking forward to seeing them again! I was looking forward to Keiynan Lonsdale as Uriah, and he didn’t disappoint. The very short scene he had with Tris – “where’s your scary boyfriend?” – was superbly executed and the other times that he came to Four and Tris’ aid were exciting. Again, I wish the movie was longer so we could have explored his character.
The Sex Scene
I’m going to mention this in the context of Tris’ fear landscape in the Divergent movie. You may recall that the movie eliminated the sexual assault aspect of Tris’ attack near the Chasm by Al and two other boys, only to change Tris’ fear landscape in her final test to include a fear of Four forcing himself on her. I objected to the change on the grounds that Tris’ character and the nature of her relationship with Four had been fundamentally changed, and that, more importantly, Tris and Four weren’t seen talking about what had happened.
I was disappointed that Tris and Four didn’t talk about her fear landscape in Insurgent either. It feels like a very important conversation, one they need to have.
However, I think the sex scene was handled well, and when all things are taken into account, it may have been a better way to show us that Tris is no longer afraid of that scenario with Four. Tris clearly initiates the encounter, which led to that silly article about how Tris embodies female empowerment in a way that Bella and Katniss do not because they withheld sex from their boyfriends while Tris did not. The author of that article was clearly unfamiliar with both the Twilight and The Hunger Games franchises, and I object on every level to the spirit of what was written, but it can’t be denied that this scene is powerful not only for Tris and Four, but for the landscape of YA adaptations and movies marketed to this audience.
I think the most exhausting thing about this movie is the number of serums, hallucinations, nightmares, simulations we had to keep track of. A significant portion of this movie didn’t actually happen, either because Tris is having nightmares or is injected with a serum. It’s also becoming harder to keep track of which serums she’s susceptible to, and which ones don’t affect her as a Divergent.
Having said that, this movie is very pretty because of the serums. The way the digital world is brought to life is ingenious. I liked the long panning shots we got of Chicago as a whole – Insurgent takes us into Amity, Candour, and Erudite, and I liked seeing more of their headquarters and how they function.
I also liked the way that the mysterious box from the Founders had to be opened, and enjoyed watching Tris navigate through the five simulations. While the Dauntless one was definitely the most exciting, it was the Erudite one that broke my heart!
As much as this movie is about Tris, Four and the rebels, it also takes the time to explore Caleb and Peter. I can’t say too much about their story-lines for fear of spoilers, but I really enjoyed the direction their stories are going. It’s a nice change to have secondary characters who actually have stories beyond propping up the leads and occasionally furthering the plot.
One of my favourite things about the Divergent movie was the music, and I’m happy to say that I loved the soundtrack and score in Insurgent as well. Another iTunes purchase for me!
I was also impressed with the diversity in racial representation in Divergent, and am again impressed with Insurgent. It’s not only Christina, Uriah, Johanna and Jack Kang, it’s also the people in the background.
Like many others I wasn’t sure about the casting of Naomi Watts as Evelyn, but I think it worked in terms of Tobias’ racial heritage. It did not work in terms of Evelyn’s age – she looked the same age as her ‘son’!
I think Insurgent is a wonderful sequel! Like the book, it explores the human motivations of all the key players as they navigate this new world where Divergents are openly hunted. I’m quietly hopeful that the Allegiant movies (there will be two!) will live up to the brilliance of the first two.