[Alternatives] – Movies – Insurgent

Alternatives is the tagline feature for other forms of entertainment outside of discussing literature. These posts may encompass television, movies, games, and music with a randomized flavour of the moment approach to each post.

Movies – Insurgent (2015)

Genre: Science Fiction, Romance, Action, Adventure, Thriller
Duration: 119 Minutes
Directed By: Robert Schwentke
Screenplay By: Brian Duffield, Akiva Goldsman, Mark Bomback

I disliked this adaptation.

Okay—now that I got that out of the way, let’s start from the humble beginnings of the trailer, shall we?

Trailer: There’s a box.

Reader: What’s inside the box?

Trailer: A box.

Reader: Another box?

Trailer: No, just a box.

(A likely conversation a reader of Insurgent will have with the trailer. No, but really, what’s inside the box?)

(Disclaimer: Spoilers vomited everywhere under the cut.)

insurgent official movie posterInsurgent is a film best enjoyed if you can discard prior knowledge of what happened in the novel as it is a departure from the storyline. To me, Insurgent, as a novel, emphasized the continual internalization of thoughts, doubts, and one’s waning moral compass against those around them in order to find growth. In a movie that could have been highly motivated by self-examination in an oppressive state, the adaptation set a new tone toward superficial elements that were written-in to help make the content more accessible.

The box with a message inside.

The device to seek out divergents. (Spoiler alert: Tris is 100% Divergent and is so very special—but you already knew that.)

The CGI porn of five simulations for another test.

You know what this amounts to? A film hoping to reach a wider audience at the expense of killing its source material. Sure, the cinematography and action sequences are bigger and bolder this time around—I’ll give it that—but when you strip that all away, the narrative lacks substance. That’s it. What was made available [to be directed] wasn’t enough to prop up a stellar performance on part of Tris Prior (portrayed by Shailene Woodley). I’m not Woodley’s biggest fan but she has done all she can do, and then some, to give life and garner sympathy toward our hero’s struggle. In a novel that brought to life and questioned the demons we face or the complexity of differing value systems (as seen through the factions), Insurgent flourishes viewers with distractions; ultimately creating a sense of coldness to root for the protagonist over and beyond the storyline.

I’ll stop playing bad cop for a moment and say that had the box actually been integrated into Divergent (the film) and had precedence in the story as not just some flimsy element to drag the story along, then yes, maybe it could have worked as a main point of conflict in Insurgent. But to me, the sudden introduction of this Pandora’s Box is like a giant flashing neon sign that distracts me from seeing and understanding the unwritten turmoil going on within Tris. Not to mention that when viewers should feel a sense of emotion, the build-up isn’t there to support moments of genuine pain. We all remember that Tris killed Will and she’s dying on the inside because of it but lo and behold ten minutes into Insurgent, she’s poppin’ out bullets with a devil-may-care attitude.  Welp, I guess the good cop is gone.

The strongest part of these adaptations, aside from its production value, is the acting. It really is. People may chirp Caleb’s awkward running scene (portrayed by Ansel Elgort) but its representation is spot on—he isn’t running like a fool, he’s running like Caleb, so what more can you ask for?

But you know what I miss the most? The [viewers] internalized reasoning when a film portrayal of a character wasn’t what they were imagined to be. CAN’T YOU AT LEAST GIVE ME THAT, INSURGENT? Uriah. Christina. Johanna. Tori. Marcus. Cara. Edward. Shauna. Marlene. Lynn. Characters marginalized in their role to be nothing more than just pawns to Tris’ game of Divergent life or they weren’t even included at all. However, Peter did grow on me in the movie (re: in the books, I only started to enjoy his presence in Allegiant) but I would have greatly appreciated if Uriah and Christina were given the opportunity to step up, like they did in the novels, and not simply sidelined in favour of Four (portrayed by Theo James).

But to be fair, I’ll step off the pedestal of having read the book and critique it like all the other movies. And you know what? I’d still see questionable writing with too many get-out-of-jail-free-cards being handed out like hotcakes. Not to mention that all the little gems of empathy that the viewer should feel are easier to dismiss because the focus revolves around the box and detracts from the relationships that should be increasingly cultivated from the first installment. Not only does this reinforce the one-dimensionalness of these characters but its something that cannot be saved by solid acting or exquisite production value. This is seemingly exacerbated by the lacking motivations already established in Divergent. Never mind the unknowns of what the box may bring, character depth is the missing puzzle piece to be discovered in this film.

Allegiant is slated to be in two parts and I don’t believe there to be enough content in the finale to build two films without taking creative liberties. And I’m okay with that, really. The writing to expand on the lacklustre exposition in the early portions of Allegiant would be awesome. But in terms of characters, the films have made it pretty clear that this entire story is very FourTris-centric to the extent that any representation of supporting characters and their relationship with Tris is so underrepresented and shallow that not casting them would do the books justice. Even the epilogue is meaningless with the way the story has been told and that’s upsetting. Le sigh.

You know what was a missed opportunity though? The Edith Prior bit. Dang that cliffy was pretty whaaaaaat-worthy in the book. I don’t even think that was mentioned at all.

Lalalalala. I think that’s all I should say (or rather, my brain hurts from all this ranting).

If you’ve read the book, I’d still suggest you to watch it and make your own decisions on the value of the changes being made.

If you’ve not read the book, it’s still an okay-ish teeny bopper action movie (except Tris and Four do not look 16 and 18 respectively). But I digress.


14 thoughts on “[Alternatives] – Movies – Insurgent”

  1. I saw this on Friday night and was definitely underwhelmed by it. Kind of a disappointment. But that’s almost to be expected when it comes to book-to-movie adaptations.


    1. Aside from learning about the gritty details per each faction, the rest of the story IMO isn’t with substance to hold up on screen. So from that sense, I understand why they had the box (but then I really don’t get why they incorporated out of the blue like that). Insurgent could have been on par with Divergent; which wasn’t amazing but it was okay-enough as a adaptation in my opinion but it dropped the ball this time around for me ahhh.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve never read the books, but I do get really annoyed when old people play teenagers. I don’t think I’ll see it in theaters, though, I’ll just wait till it comes out in digital.


  3. Exactly! At first, I was like, “oh good! They’ve finally done something about Will’s death.” But after 10 minutes or so? Bah! It was all forgotten! I thought Shailene’s performance was amazing though. Especially the truth serum scene! But I agree with your opinion with the other characters. They’re so dispensable to the director or whoever-works-on-this-stuff. Like, now Christina is mad at Tris for killing Will and then lying about it, but next? I got your back girl! And even Uriah? How will the viewers feel the impact of what’s to happen in Allegiance? Another oh-Will-died-okay I’m guessing. Okay. That’s spoilery; I will stop now.

    PS. Ansel running as Caleb is spectacular!



      Caps lock screaming off.


  4. BRILLIANT review! I agree with everything you’ve said. I’ve just finished writing my own review for the movie to publish soon (even though it’s extremely late) and the word substance consistently pops up in it. I was so disappointed that at every turn they seemed to choose pretty action scenes over any character development that would have given it emotional impact.

    P.S. I loved Caleb’s running…probably one of the best parts in the film!


    1. I feel your pain. Action can be good and it can work fine so long as there’s “substance” to support it. A worthy example is the recent Furious 7 film. Great action scenes with a meaningful narrative (and almost tribute to Paul Walker).

      They definitely took the meat out of Tris’ internal struggle (if I remember correctly) for that damn box. Like, why? Sigh.


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