Insurgent, the second installment of the Divergent trilogy based on the bestselling YA novels of the same name by author Veronica Roth, opens tonight. Here are 10 things you should know before heading to the theater.
1. What is this movie about?
In a post-apocalyptic world, the city of Chicago has been walled off and the residents are separated into factions based on their innate virtues: intelligence (“Erudite”), bravery (“Dauntless”), peacefulness (“Amity”), honesty (“Candor”), and selflessness (“Abnegation”). Those who failed to fit in to their chosen faction are called “Factionless” and have been disconnected from society. Those who do not fit neatly into any one faction are called “Divergent,” and are considered a threat to peaceful coexistence. Insurgent begins immediately following the events in Divergent with Tris, Four, Caleb, and Peter on the run from the Erudite leader, Jeanine Matthews, who, with a political finesse and a “For the Greater Good” justification worthy of Emperor Palpatine, has taken control of the city and discovered a secret message from the city’s founders that can only be opened by someone who can pass all five faction tests (i.e., an uber-Divergent).
2. Will I enjoy this movie?
If you are a fan of young adult, post-apocalyptic action movies such as The Hunger Games, Maze Runner, and The Giver, then most likely. Unfortunately, Insurgent also suffers from the same problem as many other “middle movies” of a trilogy; the first movie sets up the plot and the characters, the last movie is the climax and resolution, leaving part two as little more than plot development. On the plus side, they make no attempts at trying to sell the film as anything else, and stuff it with enough action to keep your interest throughout. Also, the lack of the love triangle, which has become a near-requisite in young adult book-to-film movies, was refreshing. Minimal romantic entanglements aside, there are enough parallels to The Hunger Games that, if you’re a fan of one, you’ll almost certainly enjoy the other.
3. Will my kids enjoy this movie?
Assuming they can handle the adult themes (see #6 below), almost certainly. The Divergent series deals with issues like self-discovery, self-worth, family bonds, and loyalty that most teens can relate to, and packages it up in a visually appealing action movie with an absolute slew of powerful, if not necessarily positive, male and female characters and packs of black-clad, tattoo-sporting bad-asses.
4. Will I enjoy this movie if I haven’t seen the first one?
Probably not. While the film is not complicated, and you will most likely get the main ideas, Insurgent does not do well as a standalone film. The story continues immediately where the first movie left off, and, apart from a few flashbacks, there is no review of major plot points or character development. Unless you want to spend half the movie asking, “Why’d she do that?” or “Who is that person?,” do yourself a favor and rent the first movie before watching this one.
5. Will I enjoy this movie if I haven’t read the book(s)?
I watched the first one, but have not read the books, while my son has both seen the first movie and read all the books, and we both enjoyed Insurgent. He said that the few significant differences between the book and the movie were not important enough to drastically change the story. That said, there were some plot holes and one either brilliant misdirection or serious McGuffin that left me frustrated, which he said the book covered much better.
6. Insurgent is rated PG-13. Is the rating appropriate?
While there was only one brief love scene, and very little swearing (even the single allowed F-bomb was just mouthed), the violence, both shown and implied, is more than enough to earn the PG-13 rating. Multiple characters are executed point-blank, a young person is portrayed being tortured to the point of a violent, back-breaking death a la Gwen Stacey, and mind-controlled people are forced to commit suicide. There is one particularly disturbing sequence involving armed gunmen mowing down a stairwell full of frightened girls. Later discovering they were not killed but merely shot with a medical device and rendered unconscious did little to alleviate the initial visceral reaction that the director was obviously going for. While in nearly all of the instances where a character is actually killed the director makes sure the camera switches away from the victims at the last second, the implication is clear from both the audio as well as the other characters’ reactions. I would compare the violence to that in The Hunger Games, particularly with regards to the antagonists’ casual disdain for human life.
7. When is a good time for a bathroom break?
There are a few slow points at the beginning and the end, but once the movie is in full swing, you’ll have a hard time finding a few minutes to duck out without missing story development. If you’re quick, when Four gets angry at the dinner table and storms off, you might be able to get out and back during the unnecessary love scene that follows. However, there are very few light-hearted comic relief moments in this movie, and one of them occurs right after Tris follows him out, so you may want to wait until then.
8. I see this movie is available in IMAX-3D. Is it worth it?
I rarely enjoy 3D movies. It is so difficult to get everything perfect that I find it is easier to get drawn into 2D movies where production or projection issues don’t destroy the illusion. That said, the 3D in Insurgent was subtle enough that it wasn’t distracting, but there were moments, particularly when panning quickly, that simply didn’t work well. Whether that was due to the filming or the projection, however, is difficult to say. If I were to watch this again at the theater, I’d opt for the 2D version. Why theaters refuse to offer an IMAX-2D version of new releases still bugs me, but it’s not relevant to this particular film, just a general annoyance that hopefully some theater executive, preferably one for the AMC down the road from me, will resolve after reading this review.
9. Should I stay past the credits?
I saw a screener version, so I can’t say what might be in the final release, but there was nothing during or after the credits.
10. Is there anything I should be prepared to talk with my kids about after watching this movie?
The relatively transparent lesson you’re supposed to take away from the whole Divergent trilogy is that everyone is a little divergent, and you should embrace all aspects of yourself and not focus on just the one that you think defines you. However, an only slightly less obvious theme particular to this film is one of forgiveness. This can be difficult for anyone, but especially for teens who are still figuring out how to handle the influx of hormone-induced emotions. The main character struggles with extreme guilt over her past decisions, which causes her nightmares and strained relations with her friends. Teens should know that everyone makes mistakes, but part of being a responsible adult is owning up to them, learning from them, and, perhaps most difficult, moving past them and forgiving yourself, even if the person you hurt does not. Finally, nearly all adults over about 30 are portrayed in this film as either manipulative, evil, or clueless. It would be easy for young people to assume that all adults are like this, that we don’t understand or care about their struggles. They should know that while their specific situation may be unique, the emotions they are experiencing and the choices they are being faced with are not.
I received free screener passes to this movie. The opinions above are solely my own.