Kicking things off, the first in 2015's lineup of YA adaptions, The Divergent Series: Insurgent, has arrived but, rather unfortunately, it sets the bar low as this film frazzles more than it dazzles.
Being a teenager myself, I'm a big fan of young adult films (I'm certainly at the core of the target audience) and I can appreciate a good adaptation. There's always the whole splitting a book into 2 films debate but if the films are good then I don't mind that too much. However, we haven't even reached that stage with The Divergent Series yet and, already, the franchise is started to feel all dried out and mawkishly approached and we're only on the sequel... the second film out of a four total films. We're only halfway.
Picking up three days after Divergent left us, we're once again reunited with Shailene Woodley's Tris and Theo James' Four. With her parents dead, the faction system now completely obliterated, a war ready to break loose, whilst being on the run from Kate Winslet's cynical tyrant Jeanine - who fears just what the Divergents are capable of - Tris and Four take shelter in the peaceful, pacifistic confines of Amity - led by Octavia Spencer's Johanna.
With the help of the selfless, cocky Peter (Miles Teller) and Tris' Erudite brother Caleb (Ansel Elgort), the group try to find a means of restoring order and bringing back a balance. However, upon realising of a message, from their ancestors, that can only be accessed by Tris, Jeanine's desire to hunt her down and kill her, as well as all other Divergents, only rises, in a bid to rid the world of 'their kind' so, upon sending badass Dauntless soldier Eric (Jai Courtney) to get them, the group are forced back into the city and the raging civil war.
RED helmer Robert Schwentke is on directing duties this time around, taking the baton from the departing Neil Burger, and you'd think that now Burger is out of the picture we can get a better, more focused adaption of Veronica Roth's trilogy but, truth be told, that doesn't happen here. Insurgent faces the pitfall of most YA films, where the middle film suffers because it's always where a franchise is a little unsure of itself, acting as a bridge between the normally decent first film setup and the good, fully understood final film(s).
His whole 'defy reality' element, taking us into the mind of Tris as she faces her harrowing memories from the last film, simply does not work. It's a messy approach that blurs the line between reality and her sub-conscious, getting too entangled in itself. There's no rhythm to the proceedings and everything is just all over the place, without defined cause.
It can also be said, though, that these moments can be amongst the film's best because of the fact that the lack of logic or just basic sense to these scenes makes it work and can be acceptable whereas, throughout the rest of the film, in the real world, you become painfully aware of just how lazy the plot is in that regard. It does not make sense.
It's no help that there's a whole string of other plots and subplots going in as well, when Schwentke can't even define the central plot enough. The story's too confused for its own good and it feels all jumbled up and inconsistent. I've read the book and can safely say that there's quite a large portion of the film that doesn't actually happen in the novel. Now, I don't mind a surprise or two (that's the fun of adaptions) but this just leaves the viewer scratching their heads.
There's all the typical, bloated trademarks of a YA film too and, unlike The Hunger Games or The Maze Runner, Insurgent fails on the forefront of having a unique twist on the genre but, instead, is a clichéd, predictable, bland, generic YA recipe that we've seen before. The story aspect of a story that, on paper, was really good doesn't come together on the big screen the same way and it plays off as dull and monotonous.
Then we come to the acting. Despite having spent a whole feature prior, in which all of our characters were fleshed out (despite the newcomers, of course), there's a lack of personality to them and it's hard to empathise and care for these characters. As an actress, Woodley does a very fine job here as Tris. We can see the struggle her character is facing and she does a good job bringing as much energy and realism to the role as possible. It works, for the most part. Shailene's über talented. I love her as an actress and I give massive kudos to her as she tries to breathe as much life and charisma into Tris, and just generally the film, as humanely possible but it simply does not translate. We can't rely on one actress to carry a whole film, unfortunately.
As for everyone else, this is a disappointment. The supporting cast to Insurgent is rather remarkable actually. We have Kate Winslet, Theo James, Miles Teller, Naomi Watts, Octavia Spencer, Daniel Dae Kim and so many more big names making up the ensemble here but it's just a waste of such monumental masses of talent as they have nothing to do and are about as deep as a puddle on a sunny day. That didn't make sense, you say? That's how these performances feel.
The characters they play are all dry, with very little development to them all. You frankly do not care about anything or anyone, other than Tris and there's only a bit of attachment to her as well. The character arcs and depth are so uninteresting and boring. The one other character that may be of some quality is Teller's Peter. He manages to bring some small laughs and entertainment but his talents are not utilised nearly enough and it doesn't make much of a difference to the film itself.
If there's any positivity to take away from the sequel, it's that the action sequences are entertaining. The film is shot to a par. The angles, the effects, the set pieces are all big, beautiful and captured perfectly. It's pure eye candy and looks damn gorgeous too. The 3D visuals are rather stunning, played to an advantage by lending itself nicely to the box-office scale and set of the project. The soundtrack is also pretty damn good (enter to win a copy, in my giveaway, here) too and Zella Day's Sacrifice is one brilliant, catchy song.
There's a scene, in the film, from the book, in which Woodley and James are infected with some truth serum and everything about it is just done so brilliantly. A little too brilliantly, compared to the rest of the film. If onlySchwentke was able to craft a whole feature film as good as this one scene then maybe this film could have been awesome and maybe I'd be excited for Allegiant Part 1. Let's hope they learn from their mistakes and make amends... otherwise Roth's compelling novels will have gone to waste.
About the Author
Founder of Oasis Awais, and avid lover of life, Awais Irfan's love of writing and film is unequivocal. Ever since he was a little kid, he has loved the cinematic experience; so much so, he is studying Film Production in Glasgow and hopes to be the next "big thing" in directing.