Twilight and its sequels began a trend in Hollywood, to adapt novels aimed at teenage girls, regardless how well-written those pulp novels were. The Divergent Series is the latest in this trend (and from the same studio), with Insurgent being the latest entry with Allegiant due in theaters in just a few weeks.
The Production: 3/5
Picking up where Divergent left off, Insurgent has our heroine Tris (Shailene Woodley) on the run and seeking asylum with Four (Theo James), Peter (Miles Teller), and her brother Caleb (Ansel Elgort) in the peace-loving faction territory of Amity, led by Johanna (Octavia Spencer). But power-hungry Jeanine (Kate Winslet) has declared martial law on all Divergents, with her Dauntless soldiers led by Max (Mekhi Phifer) and Eric (Jai Courtney) on the hunt to capture Tris, hoping to use her to unlock a recovered stone found in Tris’s parents’ house that contains a secret message from the city’s founders. When Amity is attacked, Tris and her friends escape to the Factionless, led by Evelyn (Naomi Watts), who is trying to lead a revolt against Jeanine and the Erudites. Tris and Four think that is suicide, so instead turn themselves into the justice faction of Candor, led by Jack Kang (Daniel Dae Kim). Through the use of a truth serum, Kang learns of Jeanine’s true intentions and offers Tris and Four sanctuary. This becomes short-lived when Max and Eric arrive with troops, armed with pellet guns that have the ability to not only knock non-Divergents unconscious but control them as well. Tris and Four escape with several former Dauntless soldiers, willing to fight with the Factionless to overthrow Jeanine. But Jeanine takes control of three of the former Dauntless soldiers, including Tris’ friend Christina (Zoe Kravitz), warning Tris that if she doesn’t turn herself in to Erudite, many will suffer the same fate as the three who are about to jump to their deaths. Tris and Tori (Maggie Q) save Christina and one other Dauntless, but not before a third falls and dies. Feeling guilty, Tris sneaks away and turns herself over to Jeanine, who puts Tris into a simulator, forcing her to pass tests for all five factions and opening the box. However, the message is not what Jeanine was expecting.
As novels, the Divergent series are acceptable teen pulp science fiction set in a post-apocalyptic world. As movies, they feel like retreads of Twilight, The Hunger Games, and many other movies based on popular teen-targeted novels. No new ground is really covered here, and much of the film is forgettable. That’s not to say it isn’t entertaining. Shailene Woodley’s Tris has a lot on her mind, having had to kill a close friend to save herself, watch her parents killed before her eyes, and witnessing genocide as her home faction of Abnegation is destroyed by brainwashed Dauntless soldiers under the control of Erudite leader Jeanine. And all of that occurred in the first film, Divergent. That’s a heavy burden for a teenage girl to carry, and Tris has to handle the aftermath of those events throughout Insurgent, and Woodley manages to pull it off with enough pathos to make it mostly believable. Winslet is obviously having fun playing the villainous Jeanine, and does so without ever chewing the scenery, which is a major accomplishment in itself for a movie of this type. Robert Schwentke (RED, R.I.P.D.) replaces Neil Burger (Limitless, The Illusionist) in the director’s chair for this (and the next) outing, and keeps the film moving at a fairly brisk pace, even if there is little to no suspense, due in part to the predictability of the screenplay and its source material.
3D Rating: 3/5
The Divergent Series: Insurgent was released by Lionsgate on August 4, 2015 in a DVD/Digital Copy combo, a Blu-ray/DVD/Digital HD Copy combo, and a Blu-ray 3D/Blu-ray/DVD/Digital HD Copy combo pack. First off, as a 2D Blu-ray, the 1080p image is outstanding, retaining the film’s original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.40:1 and compressed using the AVC codec. Unlike most post-apocalyptic movies, Insurgent has a more natural color palette, with deep greens especially during the scenes set in Amity. Obviously, there is some color tweaking during the simulation segments, helping the viewer to differentiate between the film’s reality and simulation. Detail is exceptional throughout most of the film, although there are a few darker sequences where contrast allows some of the details to get lost in the shadows.
The 3D version is contained on a separate Blu-ray disc, compressed using the MVC 3D codec. Unfortunately, the studio’s decision to convert Insurgent to 3D was made very late in the game, after principal photography was completed. This is very problematic, in that some sequences exhibit a good amount of depth, particularly the earlier ones in Amity, many of the panoramic shots of Chicago, and the holographic computer displays in Jeanine’s lab. However, there are also large portions of the film that appear flat and very 2D. Having seen this film in its opening weekend in IMAX 3D, the fault lies solely on the conversion, and not on this disc, as that is exactly how I remember seeing the film theatrically. I found no ghosting or crosstalk when played back on either my Samsung UBD-K8500 UHD Blu-ray player or Sony BDP-S5100 Blu-ray player with my LG 65UF8500 UHD display.
Lionsgate has released Insurgent on Blu-ray with a Dolby ATMOS soundtrack, which will default to Dolby TrueHD 7.1 on systems that are not ATMOS capable. This is a reference-quality track, even when folded down to 5.1 by my Marantz SR5008 receiver. Dialogue is always clear and concise, often directed to the center channel. Discrete effects are well-placed throughout the room, even the occasional leaf rustling during some of the quieter moments in Amity, providing an immersive listening experience.
Dolby Atmos: I used a 7.2.4 system to evaluate the Dolby Atmos mix. Lionsgate is the only studio (so far) to include a Dolby Atmos trailer at the start of their Atmos encoded Blu-rays. I wish other studios would follow their lead. This was a great Dolby Atmos mix with a great mix of music effects, ambient and localized overhead effects. I couldn’t agree more with Todd’s comment that it is “an immersive listening experience” – Adam Gregorich
Special Features: 4.5/5
All of the special features can be found on the 2D Blu-ray disc.
Audio Commentary with Producers Doug Wick and Lucy Fisher: The two producers offer a lot of information about the film, such as moving the production to Atlanta to take advantage of the tax incentives and the challenges of finding locations that look like Chicago, which locations had to be built from scratch, how the movie is different from the book, but there are also long gaps of silence, so listener beware.
Insurgent Unlocked: The Ultimate Behind the Scenes Access (1080p; 1:56:32): This is a picture-in-picture documentary on the making of the film, with the behind the scenes footage and interviews filling the screen, and much of the movie playing in a window at the bottom left or right corner. This feature can be viewed as a whole, or in individual chunks covering various aspects of production: Building a Bigger World (11:05), Creating the Big Screen Experience (14:01), Exploring the Factionless (13:52), From Factionless to Candor (14:30), A New Landscape of Weapons and Stunts (16:33), Composers and Simulators (17:33), A Fight to the Finish (28:35).
From Divergent to Insurgent (1080p; 5:09): The cast and crew discuss the story line and differences between the two movies.
The Others: Cast and Characters (1080p; 3:40): The cast and crew discuss some of the characters.
Anatomy of a Scene: The Train Fight (1080p; 4:01): A look at how the train fight sequence was created.
The Peter Hayes Story (1080p; 2:40): A look at the character played by Miles Teller.
Diverging: Adapting Insurgent to the Screen (1080p; 4:00): Author Veronica Roth and the producers discuss the changes made to the storyline to better accommodate for the big screen.
Sneak Peek (1080p; 2:45)
Sneak Peek Presented by Shailene Woodley (1080p; 1:25)
In-Theater Promotional Making Of (1080p; 1:33)
HBO First Look (1080p; 12:28)
Theatrical Trailer 1 (1080p; 1:07)
Theatrical Trailer 2 (1080p; 2:34)
Theatrical Trailer 3 (1080p; 1:11)
Theatrical Trailer 4 (1080p; 1:12)
Theatrical Trailer 5 (1080p; 1:10)
Image Gallery (1080p; 0:17)
Animated Character Portraits
Shailene Woodley (1080i; 0:19)
Theo James (1080i; 0:19)
Kate Winslet (1080i; 0:19)
Octavia Spencer (1080i; 0:19)
Naomi Watts (1080i; 0:17)
DVD Copy: The movie in 480p with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio, trailers for The Last Witch Hunter, The Age of Adeline, The DUFF, and The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part I, plus the audio commentary, From Divergent to Insurgent featurette, and the Marketing Gallery.
Digital HD Copy: An insert contains a code to redeem a digital copy through Ultraviolet.
Fans of the books and films will appreciate the 2D version as well as the wealth of special features on this set, but 3D fans will likely want to skip this set and opt for the 2D version instead due to the lackluster and last-minute conversion.