Movie Review: Insurgent

Last year, I had no interest in seeing “Divergent.” I’d read the Twilight books and seen the movies, and found them compelling, but not high art or high in meaning— I compare them to potato chips. I read the Hunger Games trilogy and loved them, and I love the movie adaptations almost as much. I think there’s a lot more meaning to the Hunger Games series, and when I heard about Divergent, it seemed pretty clearly like a copycat/also-ran. I wasn’t at all interested.

But because I love going to a movie for its own sake, and because I read a review that convinced me that I should give it a chance, I ended up seeing “Divergent,” against my better judgment. And really loving it. It’s not THG in different clothes. It’s long on meaning, but good on plot/action, also. I read the first book in the series that same weekend, and the second book in the series later last summer. I’ve bogged down in the finale to the series, Allegiant, and am about 40 percent through it, but keep finding reasons not to finish it. Part of the problem there is that they broke the conceit of the dystopian world— they took the main character out of the situation and it’s more meta. It was always more meta than THG and the Twilight series, but now it’s meta-meta, and I’m not really sure I want to know what it’s all been leading up to. I’m a little afraid she’s going to beat me over the head with the moral, and I’m afraid she’s going to sell out the central relationship between the characters.

So I saw “Insurgent” on Friday, when it had been out less than 24 hours. And, unsurprisingly, I liked it. Somewhat surprisingly, I liked it significantly better than I liked the book, because I thought they better advanced the overall story arc, without disrupting the key relationships, by a plot enhancement that I won’t get into because it’s a spoiler. And knowing at least where the next book starts, I think the movie gets us there better.

Seeing “Divergent” also sparked my fandom for Shailene Woodley. I think it’s interesting that she’s worked with Miles Teller before (in “The Spectacular Now”) and with Ansel Elgort (in “The Fault in Our Stars,” which debuted after “Divergent”), as romantic leads, and is now working with them as supporting characters in this series. I’m a Miles Teller fan (see my review of “Whiplash”) from before seeing him in this series (he’s not easy to like in this series, but he’s very likeable in the reboot of “Footloose”), and I think it’s interesting to see the range of relational connection they explore as actors in their various projects. I even sat down and tried to watch her in “The Secret Life of the American Teenager” before it got too soapy for me to stand (I managed at least a couple of seasons). I think she has better chops than Kristen Stewart, even if that’s not saying much, if she’s not quite at Jennifer Lawrence’s level of agency, and am enjoying watching her grow as an actress.

4 thoughts on “Movie Review: Insurgent

  1. I’m right there with you. I had read the book before the movie (It’s on the list I’ve been plowing through, as is every John Green book.) and I was lukewarm on Shailene from Secret Life, which, I agree was too soapy for my tastes. I’ve not yet seen The Fault in Our Stars, though, I am interested in seeing the two actors in different relationship dynamic.

    We also saw Insurgent this weekend, and I agree, it’s better than the book. My sister and I went with our dad, who hadn’t seen the first (we didn’t know that) and hadn’t (of course) read it. After the movie, my sister and I had this strange conversation about the incredibly dynamic nature of the size of Shailene’s bust, which was a first-time conversation about anyone’s chest for us, but, while it was not something that took us out of the movie, it was something that changed enough, many times in this movie, and from the first movie, that we had to have a talk about it. Silly, but true.

    On the Divergent DVD, (which I put on, in part, because of the bust discussion), there was a trailer for “The Spectacular Now,” and I’d not seen anything about it until I’d put it on this weekend. So, now I’m also curious about that, because I’m more intrigued by Miles Teller (not having seen the Footloose remake, and his turn as Peter was much more nuanced in the second movie than I’d expected, which will serve the story well for the next parts). Looking it up just now, this was one of the last movies Ebert Reviewed, and he gave it a full four-stars, so, on the Netflix queue it goes.

    As for the third book, well, I’ve read it, and I liked it, and felt like it does, in the end, succeed as a closer, but, in an unexpected sort of way, and yes, it’s very meta, and while the people I know who’ve read it have been satisfied, the meta-ness you are experiencing might end up overwhelming it for you, so I can’t tell if your experience will match mine on this one, though, I hope you do end up enjoying it.

    I liked the entire series well-enough, that I gave little Kathryn (even though she’s almost taller than me already) the set for Christmas the year before last.

    Anyway, probably I ought get back to work now.

    • I should finish it. I’m glad to hear you liked the third book, though. I, for example, liked *Mockingjay,* and felt like it ended in the only way it could have, but didn’t like that she wrapped up the whole thing in five pages. With what I’ve heard about *Allegiant,* I’ve been reluctant. If you don’t feel clubbed over the head by a moral and felt that the ending was true to the setting, I may just plow ahead. Though I now have something ridiculous like 13 books in progress, three of which are library books (and I own this one on Kindle)… Maybe it’s an incentive to shorten the list a little. It’s a fast-ish read.

  2. I agree with you on the ending of *Mockingjay,* and I honestly felt like the ending of *Allegiant* fit in much the same way, but, I can see why some others felt disappointed or unhappy. I think the middle part of the book was much more “beating over the head with the moral” than the end was, and I did feel like the end was in sync with the characters, much more than the most of the book.

    In the end, comparing the two, which are both series I really enjoyed, and even love, I feel like “The Hunger Games” was the better overall, but, I suspect that might just be because Suzanne Collins had much more experience as a writer, and as an older person has a more mature perspective (this is not a slight, but, it’s something I’ve noticed about the perspectives of people in their 20s being much more heavy-handed with making clear their point, and most of the time, that will improve with age.) I know Veronica Roth is working on her next project, and I can’t wait to see what she does.

    • Glad to hear it! And how funny about the inconsistencies in her bust size. I didn’t notice it, but am not surprised. It does seem like they play up and down her femininity/vulnerability according to her circumstances. Bust size is an easy way to reinforce that.

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