Insurgent Improves Upon Its Predecessor And Is A Better Than Average Adaptation.

Insurgent.
Director: Robert Schwentke.
Writer: Brian Duffield and Akiva Goldsman.
Actors: Shailene Woodley, Kate Winslet, Theo James, Ansel Elgort, Miles Teller, Octavia Spencer and Naomi Watts.
Opens at: Wide.

If you somehow haven't noticed, we're right in the throes of a time in which adapting dystopian young adult novels into film is all. the. rage.

It's gotten a little insane. The market's so saturated with these films, it's difficult for a new one to come in and make it's mark in this genre — no matter how good it might be –just because, for better or more likely worse, so many of these films just blur together. The team behind last year's Divergent surely know this all too well at this point. Its own attempt to cash in on this fad produced only moderate results. Still — because you obviously can't just make one movie about a dystopian society — that film's Insurgent follow-up was quickly put into production. And with little to no hesitation.

That's how big this genre's become.

Insurgent opens up a mere five days after the events of Divergent have ended. Jeanine (Winslet), the Erudite leader, has turned her attack on Abegnation into a propaganda campaign against the divergent population. Our hero Tris (Woodley), her brother Caleb (Elgort), her love interest Four (James) and the irritating Peter (Teller) are on the run, finding solace with the hippie-esque faction, Amity. Of course, that doesn't last long, and soon they're on the run again, trying to keep hidden from Jeanine. Meanwhile, Jeanine's Dauntless cronies have found a box containing a message from the founders of the city — and only a divergent can open the box.

Well, guess who she wants to open that box? That's right: Tris!

One improvement from the first film is that Insurgent doesn't concern itself much with holding the audience's hand. It assumes you've seen the first film, that you understand the rules and jargon of this world. It's clear: This film wasn't made as a second chance for crowds to jump in on this series. You will have to have seen the first film to fully understand what's happening here; it's not a film you can go into blind.

Regardless, there's one thing you can certainly expect to see here: Woodley, perhaps as expected, just completely steals every scene she's in. She's an absolute force on screen, and she plays her role well. The filmmakers struck gold with her; she can take the subtext that molds this character and easily show the subsequent emotions that this basis spurs, all without saying a word. Meanwhile, Winslet is also as magnificent as anticipated. Her antagonistic Jeanine is given much more to do this time around, and through her eerie portrayal, Winslet's proves herself a perfect choice for her character.

Also encouraging is the way in which Insurgent smartly expands upon the Divergent world and increases the stakes for its characters. This is not Divergent Redux; after having followed a lot of the Erudite, Abegnation and Dauntless collectives in the first film, this one, spends its fair share of time looking into the worlds of the Candor and Amity sets.

That said, the film is a little too on the nose with its representations of these factions. Just one example: Candor is known for telling the truth no matter what, so all people in Candor dress in black and white. Get it? Sure, it helps audiences keep the characters straight on screen, but it also comes off as if the filmmakers didn't trust the audience enough to understand the differences between the various factions.

Furthermore, the story just isn't as strong as it should be. Granted: The books from which these films were adapted aren't as rich as other young adult books out there, so the film is bound to suffer from its weaker source material. But there's not much of a plot beyond Johanna (Spencer) trying to get that mysterious box open and Tris trying to deal with the fallout of her decisions from the first film.

Still, there's enough character development and impressive acting here to make Insurgent an enjoyable watch for the fans that this franchise has already earned. The issues Divergent faced have been approved upon.

As the name implies, this film literally rises the franchise up.

Grade: B.

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