Today marks the release of the next chapter in the Divergent franchise. I have no shame admitting I'm a fan of Veronica Roth's trilogy. Sure, it's aimed at a slightly younger demographic, but the unusual concept and exciting plot twists make the books real page-turners. I read the first two books in a matter of days and couldn't wait for the third, Allegiance. After a few over-excited, and slightly embarrassing, visits to the local bookshop to find it was sold out, I found a new (more age appropriate) novel to distract me. I was determined not to watch any of the films until I had finished reading it all, but when I was offered a ticket to the premiere, I couldn't say no. Who wouldn't want to be on the red carpet with Theo James, after all?
Ever since the success of the Harry Potter and Lord Of The Rings releases back in 2001, Hollywood studios have been fighting over the screenplay adaptions of popular fantasy/sci-fi novels. Not all of them have been success stories, remember Eragon and Golden Compass? The Chronicles of Narnia and Percy Jackson films continued churning out movies with a questionable amount of success. In fact, it's only in recent years with the Twilight Saga and The Hunger Games that this box office success has been replicated. Divergent is somewhere in the middle. It received fairly mixed reviews and not quite the die-hard fan base it expected.
For those of you who aren't familiar with the trilogy (in either literature or Hollywood form), it's set in a future-dystopian city which is enclosed away from the baron world outside. The city is divided into five factions: Abnegation is for the selfless, Amity is for the peaceful, Dauntless for the brave and Erudite for the knowledgable. Everyone is brought up in their family's faction, but on their sixteenth year they must pick a faction guided by an aptitude test.
Our heroine, Beatrice Prior, is born into the painfully selfless Abnegation faction, but upon testing realises she has more than one aptitude, a condition termed Divergent. Although the city is meant to be equally ruled, Erudite leader Jeanine has other ideas and the Divergents pose a threat to her totalitarian society. Beatrice Prior is warned to conceal her results and decides to join the fearless Dauntless faction. Here she changes her name to Tris, gets some ink, some
Insurgent begins in the Amity community where Tris, Four, Caleb and Peter have taken refuge after ruining Jeanine's plans. The basic plot is that Jeanine has also retrieved a special box with a message left by the city's founders. The box can only be unlocked by securing a pure Divergent who can prove they have an equal aptitude to each faction. The wrong Divergent dies if they fail. No prizes for guessing who the right one is.
Visually, the film is absolutely stunning. Robert Schwentke, who's taken the directing reins from Neil Bulger, has packed the film full of nail-biting action and the simulation scenes are a triumph. Be warned, if you haven't seen the first film or read the books, I wouldn't recommend watching this film just yet. There's no hand-holding with the story. A couple of flashbacks mean it's watchable for virgin viewers, but you may feel a little hard done by.
Rising star, Shailine Woodley, is cast as our heroine Tris. Although I have no doubt in my mind that Woodley is will receive an Oscar in years to come, this isn't her usual role. In recent years, she has been praised for her performances in The Descendents, White Bird in a Blizzard and The Fault In Our Stars. The actress is renowned for being a bit of a hippy in her personal life and hesitated about being part of a big Hollywood franchise. But, after some advice from fellow actresses, she decided to take the part. It couldn't have been played better and Woodley handles the part with the perfect balance of sensitivity and sass. Fellow rising stars, Ansel Elgort (Caleb) and Miles Teller (Peter) are also in the film although they don't receive as much airtime they should have. Jai Courtney (Eric) also puts on a noteworthy performance as (although a lot better looking than I had pictured in the books). Aside from its list of rising young stars, some of the classics (Octavia Spencer, Naomi Watts and Daniel Dae Kim) are there to stand their ground. But, it's Kate Winslet who stands out with her representation of the ambitious Erudite leader, Jeanine.
As with any film adaptation, there was a large amount of the story that was cut. Insurgent does have a complicated plot and things which work in a book don't always translate well on camera. A lot of the strong characters in the book were diluted and, to be quite frank, a little boring. The biggest downfall of the film is that our heroine, Tris, is overshined by her handsome co-star, Four. He is ultimately portrayed as the hero in what is sold as (and should be) a female-centric sci-fi genre. Also, not such a biggie, but how on earth did Tris chop her own hair into such a perfectly layered pixie cut?
The film has already received some tough criticism, but all in all Insurgent it's a great action film and in many ways better than its prequel. It combines a complicated emotional journey with hardcore action and an extremely satisfying ending. It'll leave you keen to find out what happens next which is drawn out over not one, but two films. I just hope the screenwriters spend a little more time working on character development for the next couple of rounds.