Prepare ye for an onslaught… of sequels. Yes, 2015 is set to be another “year of the sequels” with most of the biggest projected hits coming from a slew of blockbuster film franchises (The Avengers and Jurassic Park films are getting me particularly excited). The first of this gargantuan group is Divergent‘s sequel Insurgent, and if this film is anything to go by, then the dearth of sequels is nothing of which we should be afraid.
Plot: Girl on the Run
In Insurgent, we find our protagonist Beatrice Prior or “Tris” (Shailene Woodley) has taken refuge with the Amity faction, still reeling from the deaths of her parents and friends. However, as Tris’ divergent qualities begin to manifest themselves, she, with her brother Caleb (Ansel Elgort) and lover Four (Theo James), must keep running to evade capture by the authorities. The evil Jeanine (Kate Winslet, looking especially Arian with bleached blond hair and a dress that brings out the blue of her eyes) needs Tris’s special abilities to unlock a box with a secret message given to the city by its ancestral founders. A plethora of plot twists, escapes, and captures ensue, as Tris battles her own interior issues in the struggle.
Divergent for many is just a low-rent Hunger Games; a young-adult, dystopic scifi with a central heroine destined to save her people from systematic tyranny. And there is no denying that the Divergent series is an inferior copy; the first movie particularly suffered by overlong periods of exposition. The explanation of the faction system seemed a little boring and complicated, and the creators of the first film seemed unable to put across the world structure in a clear and cinematic way. The good news is that since all of that world building had to happen in the previous instalment, Insurgent has a lot more action and less inane talking. The film’s substantial production values shows in its beautiful cinematography and use of special effects. More time is also spent on a key element of great storytelling, character development.
Tris Gets Complicated
Tris is a more interesting hero than Katniss; because she is “divergent”, meaning she possesses of several factional traits, complexity defines her personality. While the plot follows predictable narrative form, Tris does not; her main conflict is about her ability to control her violent streak, a part of womanhood rarely tackled even in modern Hollywood. Tris feels genuinely unpredictable at times; we don’t know when she might valiantly lash out or act compassionately. In a genre full of stock characters, Tris is refreshingly full-bodied. Where the character is slightly let down, however, is in the portrayal by Shailene Woodley. Woodley can act an emotional range; she just does not have the physicality to pull off a lead action role. Her punches don’t seem to land with any weight, and her jumps look less like a lioness and more like household tabby cat.
Amazing Supporting Cast
Woodley is, however, supported by a fantastic cast. The presence of strong female ancillary roles by Kate Winslet, Octavia Spencer, and Naomi Watts mean that the film passes the Bechdel test many times over (for those unfamiliar with the test, it is a tool of feminist analysis that asks if two female characters in a film actually talk to each other about a subject other than a man). It is, however, Miles Teller, fresh from Whiplash glory that steals every scene he is in. His thorn-on-the-side character Peter will have you wondering if you should give him a punch in the face or a slap on the back.
The summer of blockbuster sequels is coming, and you can’t stop it. However, you can start it by a fun diversion in the second Divergent film Insurgent, the better film in the franchise. Its message is also always timely for young people even if it is a little heavy-handed. Live out all parts of yourself; you are more wonderfully complex than others believe. While Insurgent won’t be exciting the intellectual part of yourself too much, it could be the rush of adrenaline the dauntless part of you needs to start a summer of adventure.