The second entry into the planned four part film series that is adapting our favorite Veronica Roth source material, known as the Divergent trilogy, has finally arrived. Insurgent made its debut last weekend amidst mixed reviews (31% rotten according to critics, 71% liked among fans) but still managed to top the box office with an estimated $54.03 million. Now the question that we are all clamoring for, how did the new director do with our beloved series’ second book? Let’s break it down by the top three questions that I get every time someone asks me about my thoughts of a book-to-movie adaptation.
Was it entertaining?
The film was entertaining, and it was very enjoyable as a fan of the series. The simulation sequences were action packed and intense. They were definitely created to be viewed in 3D, but you’re probably not missing too much if you’re cheap like me. Probably one of the best sequences is the first Dauntless simulation where Tris is fighting to get to her mother who is trapped in a rotating, burning box. This was probably the most visually interesting sequence, the one that managed not to go too over the top, and one of the few simulation scenes that didn’t feel like it was overtly pandering to the 3D technology.
And most importantly when it comes to entertainment, have no fear shippers, the relationship between Tris and Four is still squee-worthy in this installment. There are some weird moments that happen concerning our central couple, one that involves a dream and Four’s mother to be specific, but aside from that the filmmakers really focus on how much these two trust and love each other. It’s pretty stinking adorable.
Did [insert favorite supporting character here] make it into the movie?
Truthfully just as they did in the first installment of the movie franchise, they kind of miss the boat on almost all of the supporting characters. Both movies spend too much time focusing on the adults as opposed to the supporting teen characters. It was troublesome in the first movie because you lose so much of why Tris feels connected to these people and why it was so traumatic for her when she killed Will. The movies gloss over these relationships in favor of exploring the adults’ motivations and the fancy technology associated with a dystopian world. The side effect is that it tends to trivialize the actions of our heroine. We don’t really understand why or how she ticks in the films and it’s not without a lack of trying from the charismatic Shailene Woodley. Films always need to streamline the complicated layers of a book, but Insurgent and its predecessor did a little too much cutting or at least cutting in the wrong places.
Roth created such a vast and diverse world that it’s honestly kind of sad that the films tend to focus on the superficial aspects of that world. Tris deserved to have a strong female friend whose relationship gets complicated the farther they are thrust into this war. It’s honestly kind of frustrating how few positive female relationships are shown in the film given. This is a boys film with a female star. Seriously there is a good chunk of this film with whom the only authentic interactions Tris has are with male peers like her brother and Peter. Kudos to Miles Teller for being the comedic relief in this all too serious movie, but really there are enough movies where the boys get to be boys. It would have been nice to see more of the female friendships and more of the female leaders who aren’t portrayed to be inherently evil.
Did it stay true to the book?
Quite simply, no. It could possibly take a post the length of a book to go through everything that Insurgent the movie changed from Insurgent the book. I mean the whole central conflict of the plot was changed! If that’s not enough change for you, oh the ending was changed too. This was far less about a burgeoning revolution then it was about a “special” girl who could change the world… or in this case go through a number of 3D simulations that opens a very special box. Honestly this part was disappointing to me. I’m all for changing things up to make a solid adaptation, but it didn’t feel like the book I read at all. Veronica Roth appears to be okay with a lot of these changes. You can check out her interview with Vulture and her Tumblr post to see more on her thoughts.
Final Verdict: If you are looking for a straight up adaptation that stays true to the book, then you might want to pass. If you are looking for a fun action flick with a female heroine, then it’s definitely a good choice for a movie day.
-Katie Shanahan Yu, currently reading Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson