It is hard to hate Insurgent. Equally, it is hard to love it. The film inspires indifference, nothing more, nothing less. It falls conventionally into place alongside all teenage-fiction inspired movies which have unfortunately plagued cinemas since the pitiful Twilight Saga commenced in 2008. Since then we have endured a chain of predictable teenage supernatural- romance movies including Beautiful Creatures, Beastly, and Mortal Instruments amongst many others. More recently, and perhaps having achieved wider acceptance into the world of cinema is The Hunger Games.
It is a shame that Insurgent has been so widely compared to The Hunger Games. Suzanne Collins, author of The Hunger Games Trilogy, never attempts to conceal the brutality of the world which she has created and the message of her books is precise and powerful. Veronica Roth, author of The Divergent Trilogy however seems heavily aware of her teenage audience and the narratives are artificially fluid with an awareness of future screen adaption. The Divergent films will not break free from its predictable teenage-fiction label, because it bows to these conventions too easily.
Insurgent follows guilt-stricken Tris (Shailene Woodley) and pouty pretty-boy Four (Theo James) along their wanderings of the ruins of Chicago, in a world organised into ‘factions’ defined by personality traits. Before their 119 minutes of screen time comes to an end, Tris and Four manage to visit firstly Amity Faction, then the Factionless, the Candor Faction, and even the Erudite Faction. They’ve attempted to escape from bad guy Jeanine (Kate Winslet) and her magic box, and then attempt to fight Jeanine and her magic box. The film becomes rhythmical; intense conversation, fighting, running, intense conversation, fighting, running, and so on.
The scenes change rapidly; no conversation lasts for longer than five minutes, resulting in clichés and dramatic phrases hanging at the end of each passage. The insertion of haunting dreams about Tris’ past deeds, does nothing more than force Insurgent deeper into its teen-fiction genre. Conveniently there is always someone who can come to the rescue at the last moment, whether that be on a cargo train, at Candor headquarters, or in an experimental laboratory at the centre of the Erudite.
The problem however, lies more with the exhausted genre of the film, rather than the film itself. The narrative is interesting enough and quite entertaining. Lead actress Shailene Woodley is exceptional in her performance as fearless Tris Prior, and alongside her, the cast perform moderately well. The special effects are outstanding and the cityscape shots are remarkable in their detail and vivacity. Anyone not acquainted with the last ten years of cinema would find this film gripping and revolutionary in its visual material and narrative.
Elements of the story even come as a refreshing surprise; for instance, the unreliable personality of Four’s mother and the shifting allegiances of various persons. It is a pity however, that the unpredictable and original ideas within the film can be counted on one hand. Whilst having taken inspiration from The Matrix and undeniably The Hunger Games, this film marks a period in contemporary cinema where futuristic settings are starting to all look, sound and function in the same way.
Tris is a strong character, physically and mentally. She does not allow her relationship with Four to define her. Rather, she is constantly taking the lead and shows no physical vulnerability. Four, it seems, is much more emotionally enwrapped with her and passively follows through with her choices. The snorts of disgust I overheard in the cinema from a group of teenage boys after witnessing Tris’ new, shorter haircut highlight the alarming conventions which continue to dominate the image of women in contemporary film. If the female is to be a strong protagonist, then she must be generically beautiful, vulnerable and submissive to her male counter-part. Insurgent does not conform to many of these conventions, and for that, it is worthy of praise.
Yet as a whole, Insurgent doesn’t particularly stand-out. Indeed the film is more exciting than the novel and clears up some of the details at the end that don’t make a whole lot of sense; even if this sense of confusion still lingers at the end of the film-adaption. What exactly is the whole faction ecosystem testing? It doesn’t quite seem to add up.
But the fast-pace soon forces the viewer to forget about the details which aren’t entirely compatible. The film is engaging and amusing even if it seems to lack an emotional core. If you are looking to spend two hours on passive entertainment then Insurgent is the perfect choice for you! Begin the film without any expectations, and you may even be pleasantly surprised.