Upon hearing the plotline of the Divergent series, it’s hard not to be immediately reminded of The Hunger Games. After watching Insurgent—the second film of the series based Veronica Roth’s trilogy—it becomes even easier to see why many viewers feel this way.
Starring Shailene Woodley, the film follows Tris Prior as she struggles to overthrow the corrupt dictatorship that has taken over a dystopian Chicago. In a genre that is usually dominated by men, it’s refreshing to have a series where a young woman saves the day. Unfortunately, Woodley portrays a fairly two-dimensional character.
Tris is brave, athletic and tough. Still, she is attractive and shares a relationship with her equally attractive male counterpart Four—played by Theo James—which comes as no shocker. As in the Hunger Games movies, this uninspiring romance between the attractive female lead and the brooding man who keeps her grounded is one of the main draws.
The similarities between the franchises do not end there. The dialogue follows the formula for nearly every dystopian story. This is most notable in the leader of the oppressive faction headquarters Jeanine Matthews. Played by Kate Winslet, this villain is a beautiful, blonde and somewhat unoriginal evil overlord. She is monotonous, cold and businesslike—like nearly every female villain in a Hollywood film.
Certain aspects of Woodley’s performance are redeeming, however. In one of the most climactic points of the film, Tris gets injected with a truth serum, causing her excruciating pain every time she lies. The agony and emotion Woodley portrayed were so believable, the scene was nearly impossible to watch.
As in most science fiction films, the physical setting of the film was of high importance. The set and visual effects were striking. The film began in a lush, utopian forest and transitioned into an urban wasteland destroyed by years of violence and warfare. The aesthetics alone made Insurgent extremely engaging.
Although I was disappointed in the lack of originality, Insurgent delivered exactly what I expected. There was certainly no lack of action, romance or awe-inspiring scenery. Audiences will undoubtedly be entertained, but those expecting a groundbreaking feminist story will leave unsatisfied.