Twitter Plot Summary: Tris Prior and her fellow insurgents (see what they did there?) take on the system in order to protect those who are Divergent.
Following the events of the first film, the sinister Jeanine (Kate Winslet) has managed to take full control of the city and has declared Tris (Shailene Woodley), Four (Theo James), Caleb (Ansel Elgort) and Peter (Miles Teller), as well as the other rebellious members of Dauntless as enemies of the state, ordering their capture. Meanwhile she is also very interested in a brand new MacGuffin which needs a Divergent to open it and may very well be the thing to unite everyone under one banner, or to separate them to the four winds.
After witnessing the lives of people in Abnegation, Dauntless and, briefly, Erudite in Divergent, we get to look into the lives of those in the remaining factions in Insurgent – namely Amity (selfless), Candor (truth) and, er, the factionless. This latter group live on the outskirts and underneath the faction-based society, and exist in such vast numbers that it’s surprising they haven’t decided to rise up and take control before now. This is just one of several inconsistencies that belittle Insurgent’s efforts to achieve the same level of quality as the Hunger Games series and its own preceding film.
The theme of rebellion and fighting against the system isn’t as well developed as that seen in the Hunger Games movies, acting almost as a backdrop to the relationship between Tris and Four. While in itself there is nothing wrong with this approach, there’s less investment in their mission and the consequences of their actions. It also feels like much of the exposition around the character’s motivations has been ditched in favour or action routines and lots of ponderous scenes where people stare at computer displays or stare at other people and smoulder in that way actors do in these young adult adaptations.
You get the impression that this is a transitional film, a clearing of the decks of some of the characters from the opening entry, including some surprising deaths, and the opportunity to explore new territory in what has become the standard pattern of adapting a three book series into four films. A fair amount of effort will be needed in the two parts of Allegiant when they finally arrive in 2016 and 2017 in order to make up for the shortcomings here.
Ponderous and overly serious, Insurgent seems to have weighty ideas above its station, not helped by how indecisive Tris’ characterisation is handled nor by insisting on giving us a list of characters who have taken at least one step backwards in their development since Divergent. The usual themes about a youngster finding and establishing their place in the world is present and correct, but that’s almost the only aspect that makes this entry to the series worthwhile and does little to counteract the disappointment. More importantly, it manages to reduce Kate Winslet to nothing more than the boring, pen pushing head of an admittedly macabre science experiment rather than the sinister and sly leader she has previously been presented as. This neutering of her character is sadly indicative of Insurgent as a whole.