In this post-Twilight world in which we live, Young Adult novel-to-film franchises are a dollar a dozen (dime a dozen was for your grandparents – get with inflation), but while many have tried and failed (Beautiful Creatures, The Mortal Instruments), others have truly triumphed (The Hunger Games, The Maze Runner). The Divergent Series falls into that latter category of box office smashes that have warranted an entire series of big budget films adapted from tween novels. Oddly enough, these three are basically all the same story: a dystopian future where the fate of humanity rests on the shoulders of a teenager… go figure. Also oddly enough, most young adult franchises’ second films were better than the first: I enjoyed Catching Fire FAR more than The Hunger Games and New Moon was way better than… I mean… I’ve never watched a Twilight film before. Luckily, Insurgent continues this trend, raising the stakes of the first film and giving the audience an entertaining ride along the way.
First things first, if you have yet to see Divergent, there is absolutely no reason for you to see Insurgent, as it does no favors to explain things for those coming aboard a film behind. For those of you who did sit through the first film, you’ll know that the series is set in post-apocalyptic Chicago, where humanity is divided into five factions after they take a buzzfeed quiz: the hippie one, the intellectual one, the logical one, the dogooder one, and the adrenaline junkie one. For those who don’t fall into any faction or leave their assigned one, they become the Factionless, while those who fall into multiple categories are considered Divergents (hence the title). A council that governs the factions, lead by the wicked Jeanine (Kate Winslet, Titanic), is hunting Divergents based on their threat to the very order to society.
Insurgent picks up almost immediately where the first film left off with our Divergent hero Tris (Shailene Woodley, The Descendants) on the run with her brother Caleb (Ansel Elgort, Shailene’s love interest in The Fault in Our Stars), her former nemesis Peter (Miles Teller, Shailene’s love interest in The Spectacular Now), and lover Four (Theo James, Shailene’s love interest in Divergent) from Jeanine and the council who have framed them for the genocide of the do-gooder faction. Hiding out in the hippie faction, run by peaceful Johanna (Octavia Spencer, The Help), the quartet’s tranquil living is short lived as the council’s hunting dogs (the delicious Jai Courtney, Unbroken and Mekhi Phifer, I Still Know What You Did Last Summer) come to track them down.
A thrilling chase scene ends in our heroes boarding a train heading back towards the heart of the city and they take refuge with the Factionless in their ghetto. Here we learn that the Factionless are lead by none other than Four’s mother Evelyn (Naomi Watts, Birdman) who abandoned him when he was a child and faked her death: cue teen angst!!! Before you can say “YOU’RE NOT MY MOM,” Tris and Four take off in pursuit of their comrades who are holed up with the logical faction. Along the way we learn that Jeanine has an ancient artifact that was hidden away by Tris’ parents (Ashley Judd, Murder By Numbers and Tony Goldwyn, everyone’s favorite TV president Fitz on Scandal) and contains a message from the founders of their society that could help restore order… BUT it can only be opened by a Divergent who can pass the test for each of the five factions! DUN DUN DUNNNNNNN! Who could that be I wonder!?
For all of its young adult novel trappings, Insurgent is a fun ride. The action sequences blow those of the first film out of the water and Shailene Woodley once again proves that she is a star on the rise. I’m telling y’all: this girl can ACT and lights up the screen. The movie honestly shouldn’t be as good as it is, as it serves merely as a bridge between the first novel and the epic third (Allegiant – coming to theaters in two parts this same weekend 2016 and 2017), but like Catching Fire before it, Insurgent makes the most of its simple plot by delivering on fantastic action and growing the characters you know and love, especially our heroine. Tris is no Katniss, but girl can hold her own.
Make no mistake, Insurgent was originally written by a girl still in undergrad at Northwestern. But if you take everything with a 22 year old grain of salt, the film is quite entertaining.
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