Review: The Divergent Series: Insurgent (IMAX 3D)

It's that time of the year where yet another YA silver screen adaptation hits cinemas. The middle chapter of The Divergent Series has a challenging task to develop an enjoyable and meaningful bridge between the first and final installments.

Robert Schwentke relies upon his team of screenwriters (Brian Buffield, Akiva Goldsman and Mark Bomback) to streamline Veronica Roth's source material while he focuses on genre duties. The first half of the film jogs its narrative fairly distractingly as the filmmakers cannot wait to bring forth the action and visual effects.

As a result, exposition is thin and dialogues are insignificant and irrelevant (A: Where's your scary boyfriend? B: Doing scary boyfriend stuff). The only excuse for all characters to convene (besides box office returns) is a mystery box that supposedly contains an important message from the Creators, which can only be opened by a special Divergent.

This sets Insurgent up as a film that is sadly nothing more than a narrative and genre obligation. Even the core concept of a society that categorises people into five different factions loses its appeal and intrigue for the uninitiated (to whom the film will not be kind to as it introduces convolution to them).

Clearly not an Erudite, the film is fortunately faring better in other attributes.

As soon as Tris (Shailene Woodley) enters into a series of simulations, the audience will begin to appreciate the strengths of Schwentke. With the help of his cinematographer Florian Ballhaus and a huge team of visual effects artists (that includes Double Negative, Singapore), Tris goes through captivating scenarios that proves her worthiness as a tough heroine when it is required of her.

Insurgent is also the film where Tris comes under (too much) limelight. Tris is frequently seen traumatised and weeping under a great sense of self-inflicted guilt and remorse, which portrays her weakness in contrast against her strong actions as a balanced female protagonist.

Other supporting characters do not have much to explore, including new ones such as the leader of the Factionless - Evelyn played by Naomi Watts (whose character is likely to play a larger role in the next film). Jeanine (Kate Winslet) impresses with a sharp screen presence, but is inevitably a mere linear symbol of antagonism.

Beyond the pre-concocted messages on forgiveness and the courage to stand against adversity, Insurgent also features strong female characters. It also injects a welcomed twist towards the end that hints of a potentially larger agenda that will follow in the final chapter Allegiant (split into 2 films as usual).
- Jason Lin

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