Insurgent Film Review: A Case of Action over Substance

Insurgent Poster

The Insurgent film release really snuck up on me, with life keeping me busy and university work in full swing, I probably would have completely missed out on seeing it in the cinema if it weren’t for a good friend of mine who reminded me! In a way, I kind of liked going without having been sucked into any of the hype, it meant that I could sit back, relax and enjoy without any preconceived ideas of how good it would be or how it would compare with the novel. I’m just a tad late with this review, but better late than never, eh?!

The Plot
Dystopian Chicago and its faction system are a mess. After the horror and confusion of the simulations attacks, the Dauntless have been left scattered. Some have joined forces with the enemy Erudite while others seek refuge with the remaining factions. Tris (Shailene Woodley) may have saved half of Abnegation with her acts of selflessness and bravery, but they have not left her unscarred. Still reeling from the death of her parents and shooting one of her closest friends, Tris feels lost and cut off from those around her. Unsure where is safe, Tris, Four (Theo James) and a selection of remaining Dauntless and Abnegation seek protection with Amity, but they know that they cannot stay for long. Amity promotes communication, neutrality and peace. War is coming and the Dauntless must fight back.
Tris must be ready, because her world is about to be turned upside down.

The Verdict
So, let’s start off with the good! Insurgent as a film is a whirlwind spectacular for the eyes. The sets, cinematography and CGI were impressive beyond belief, every scene felt glossy and polished with many scenes using purple, blue and greyish hues that gave it an especially sleek, futuristic dystopian feel. Insurgent is on a whole other level in comparison to Divergent. The actions scenes are intense and frequent, they are done in a way that make the watcher draw in a deep breath with the tension of it all. The simulation scenes had my heart beating fast and when Four was running away from some Dauntless and lunged over a train track with a moving train mere inches from his body I found myself physically wincing and shielding myself, ready for the blow. Everything is designed to have a high impact on the watcher, and it works!

Insurgent still

The main thing that I liked about this movie was the pacing. The film starts off with a bang and continues at a sprint running into conflict after conflict whether mental or physical. It was far better than the novel which I remember thinking was slow and somewhat difficult to get into. A further bonus for me was that the medium meant a lot of Tris’s infuriating and whiny internal monologues were cut. These were book changes that benefited the story. However, there were a lot of other changes that had me raising an eyebrow. In a similar way to The Maze Runner adaptation, at times the Insurgent movie felt like an entirely different story. The plot is loosely there but warped, and some aspects that took up a big portion of the novel were missing while other entirely new aspects were added in. Surprisingly, this didn’t bother me as much as you might think. Although the story was different, it didn’t feel it was in a good or bad way. It was just different. Which confused my brain!

Insurgent still 2

Having said that, I did feel that these changes took away some of the realism and more serious aspects of the story. Tris’s post-traumatic stress – easily one of the most prominent aspects of the book which to an extent shows the importance of not glorifying or romanticising war, was glossed over apart from a few nightmares. Also, one of the things I liked about Tris and Tobias as a couple in the books was that they weren’t perfect, they fought a lot, they struggled to trust each other and were constantly plagued with doubts. In the movie, this is all stripped away and replaced with a much more straightforward, linear relationship which I didn’t really like. I feel like once again Hollywood has opted for the smooth, cookie cut out, one true love romance that is never in doubt, as well as replacing and overlooking the seriousness of war in favour of high impact action scenes and pretty choreography. It’s entertaining, but it lacks substance and complexity!Insurgent still 3

As for the characters, I felt so detached from their struggles. Because the film was so action packed the small intimate scenes seemed few, and when they did occur, came across as forced. There’s something about Shailene Woodley and Theo James as actors…they don’t project emotion in a way that makes me care, I find them disingenuous and I don’t know why! I didn’t feel the chemistry between Tris and Four, and the secondary characters (except for Christina) were ignored once again in favour of heavy action and CGI scenes to the point that when anything dramatic happened to them there was very little emotional investment making me care. Also, WHERE WAS URIAH? WHERE HAS HIS AWESOME CHARACTER DISSAPEARED TO IN THIS FRANCHISE? He is epic and they reduced him to like, TWO LINES. If there was a choice between action scenes and Uriah? I would pick Uriah. Just putting it out there!

Overall, while Insurgent had its brilliant moments, it was let down by a case of action over substance as well as a lack of character development. I think how much you like this film will depend on what you’re looking for from it. If your going in for the heart pumping action and fun futuristic feel you will come out satisfied, but if you’re looking for emotion, depth and an accurate representation of the book you may be a tad disappointed!

Have you seen Insurgent yet? Did you think it was a case of action over substance? Do you find it difficult when a movie diverges a lot from the book? (See what I did there 😉 )

Originality: 3/5
Entertainment: 3/5
Characters: 2/5
Cinematography: 4/5
CGI (
Computer-Generated Imagery): 5/5
FANGIRL FACTOR: 2/5

Overall: 3/5

Image Sources:
Insurgent Poster // Insurgent Still 1, 2 and 3 //

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10 thoughts on “Insurgent Film Review: A Case of Action over Substance

  1. Sometimes when the movie diverges from the book it doesn’t bother me at all, but it did bother me this time, especially the ending. Without getting into details, I’m still trying to figure out how they are going to start off the third movie when they ended the second so different from how the book ended. It just feels like it’s going to keep straying from the books more and more. I still really enjoyed the movie, but as I always say, nothing beats the book :).

    • I agree! I can forgive lots of little things and anything that is changed in order to make the movie medium work. I’m usually pretty laid back by book changes and like I’ve said in this review, I didn’t think the changes to Insurgent were necessarily bad, just different, although it did affect the depth of the story they told in my opinion.
      I agree with you about that ending! I don’t know why they changed it, it would have been so much more dramatic if they had kept it the same. Weird. 🙂 I think you’re right, the final film will stray from the books even more, especially as Allegiant will be a two part thing. Think I might wait to catch those ones on DVD, I’m so fed up with the spitting movies trend, hmph.

  2. I’ve read the first two books of the series, but I haven’t seen the films yet…nor read the third book. Odd, since the premise is so interesting and the writing so well developed and well done…

    There’s always something suffers in transferring book-to-screen, but I’m easy going on them most of the time. I know a friend who walked out of the first LOTR because it wasn’t {somebody} who gave a sword to Frodo! (I want to say Strider, but don’t know if that’s right…)

    • Yes I agree, this series is a bit of a weird one for me. At times I’ve loved it while other times I’ve become frustrated by it. It gets everything right on paper, but the emotional impact doesn’t always come through. Do you think you will pick up the final book anytime soon? I just finished it and I’m hoping to get a review up at some point. 🙂

      I agree, I love picking out the differences between books and movies and how they work in the different mediums, it’s a lot of fun! WOW. That is some serious fangirl/boy angst there. Hehee each to their own, luckily I don’t get caught up with the little details or I would never enjoy adaptations. 🙂

  3. So I’ll admit that I didn’t remember much going into this movie (I read Insurgent only once, right when it came out, and I haven’t read Allegiant yet) and while the movie was definitely entertaining, I did feel like it only vaguely touched upon my (somewhat lacking) memory of the book. I do remember a LOT of inner dialogue with Tris over holding/shooting a gun, killing people, etc. and while it got repetitive, I thought it was important that she felt remorse about it so deeply, as it’s more realistic than a lot of dystopian characters who turn into soldiers without really being emotionally impacted by it. I also was confused as to why their were actions sequences in the trailer that I couldn’t remember at all (which I guess was because they were from simulations, but that bothered me because they didn’t put REAL things that happened in the trailer!…but maybe that’s just me). Fantastic and thorough review!

    • Neither did I and I only read it a year or so ago, so I don’t blame you! Hehee. Even so, I noticed some significant changes, some of them good, some of them…not so good.
      Yes, the book had a lot about Tris’s post-traumatic stress and inability to fire a gun, while in the film she just had a few bad dreams and then got trigger happy in the first half an hour. Like you I was kind of in two minds about the changes because in the book I also found her struggles repetative, frustrating and not that enjoyable to read. Yet at the same time I think its important that they were there showing the reality of war. I feel like the movie should have touched on it a little bit more just because of how important it is. But oh well. 🙂
      Yes! So many action sequnces were added in that weren’t in the book at all. They looked impressive on screen but at the end of the day the simulations were actually my least favourite parts of the novel so to have so much of the movie focus on them wasn’t a big plus for me.
      Thank you!

  4. I haven’t seen Insurgent yet, but it seems to me like it’s kind of a more extreme version of the problems with the Divergent movie? The CGI and filming were fabulous in that, but I found it lacking somehow. :/ It was really interesting to read your review, anyway!

    • Yes, that’s an excellent way of putting it! I also found Divergent was lacking somehow although I wasn’t totally sure why, and Insurgent helped me solidify why. The characters just weren’t doing it for me and I feel like the heart of the series is being put in the wrong place.

      Thank you! I hope you like Insurgent more than I did when you get to see it. 🙂

  5. I still haven’t got on this whole Divergent/Insurgent/Veronica Roth etc bandwagon. There’s a part of me that doesn’t want to?! Is it worth it?

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