March 26, 2023
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Life & Culture

Review: ‘Insurgent’ adds to teenage-dystopian genre

"The Divergent Series: Insurgent"

Directed by Robert Schwentke

The 30-foot high projected image of the pale, blond leader of a recent coup d’etat is plastered on every screen and surface in the city. Her voice booms the list of supposed crimes by the “Divergents” on the run. So begins “Insurgent,” the second in the “Divergent” series, which takes place in a post-apocalyptic world amid the ruins of what was once Chicago.

In this world, society is divided into five factions based on one’s underlying personality traits: “Dauntless,” the brave; “Candor,” the honest; “Amity,” the good; “Erudite,” the smart; and “Abnegation,” the caring. Those who don’t fit in are the “Factionless,” abandoned and outcast. Those able to fit across more than one faction are the “Divergent,” enemies of the state because they are believed to be inferior to the working system at large and therefore unsuitable for use.

Based on the book series of the same name, “Insurgent” follows young teenage Divergent, Tris (Shailene Woodley), who is trying to discover her place in this tyrannical world where the factions are battling for power. The other main characters include her brother, Caleb (Ansel Elgort), and her boyfriend, Tobias Eaton, also known as Four (Theo James). This latest installment is about the battle for the future of society and human evolution. On one side, the leader of the coup, Jeanine (Kate Winslet), is engaged in completing her societal takeover. On the other side, Tris and her band of outcasts are preparing to fight Jeanine and to put an end to the faction system.

Having escaped the city in the last episode of the series, Tris, Four and Caleb take refuge within Amity on the outskirts of the city. Because of Amity’s honor and values, the people there are willing to help and aid them. Throughout the film, Tris observes that Amity and Candor are somehow outside the battle. They are willing to help the rebels but remain mostly neutral. On a certain level, the members of these factions are torn over aiding the rebels based on their core values of peace and honesty, but they understand the flaws that are present in this system.

One of the most interesting aspects of this sequel is the development of the main characters. The relationship between Tris and her brother becomes tense as they are divided by their different views of society. Caleb is drawn by the faction system and embraces the order it brings, while Tris, as a Divergent, rejects the imposition of the structure altogether. This brother-and-sister unit is a microcosm of the larger societal battle between Jeanine and the remaining adherents of freedom within the factions.

Tris has matured both physically and mentally from the loss of those close to her and the world she once knew. In “Divergent,” she was mainly focused on finding her place, understanding her self and trying to survive. In “Insurgent,” she faces a much bigger objective: thinking about society as a whole and her responsibility to fight the hierarchy. Much like Katniss Everdeen in “The Hunger Games” trilogy, Tris does not see herself as the strong character, but she does consider herself to be resilient to opposition. They both have a tendency to insert themselves almost as a shield in order to save and protect those around them.

The movie has a nice pace, which is slower at first as the characters come to understand the harsh reality in which they live. It begins to accelerate as they are ultimately forced into action by the choices and sacrifices they have to make. This film has as much drama as action, which moviegoers will certainly enjoy to a certain degree. As the film progresses, so will these themes, and with that the audience will get to know the characters and begin to identify with their struggles. There is also an exciting subplot as Jeanine seems to believe she has found some kind of doomsday machine that will balance the power in her favor. This strategy serves as an interesting thread and may either prove to be the downfall or the success of the regime.

With this film, followers of the series — readers and non-readers alike — will enjoy this installment equally on varying levels if not at the same level. One aspect of the film that viewers may enjoy is the strategic use of special effects, which work in the movie’s favor by adding intensity and a hyper-realistic feel to the scenes.

“Insurgent” is a great story and worth the investment of seeing “Divergent” first so the viewer can fully appreciate the plot and the development of the characters. One can’t help wondering, though, as one sees the success of these dystopian tales like “Divergent” and “The Hunger Games,” both of which are aimed at teenagers, what it is about the world that draws young people to obsess and think about the unhappy future that lies in wait. With these though-provoking themes, “Insurgent” adds to the young-adult dystopian genre by building on its predecessor’s fame.