Was Insurgent Better Than Divergent?

*trigger warning: rape*

If you were near me at any point this time last year, you would probably hear me complaining about the book-to-movie adaptation, Divergent. I wrote about it twice, talking about how it served not only as a terrible adaptation, but as a lackluster movie. So it’s no surprise that I went into Insurgent with very little hope. The question is: did it improve? Did it get worse? Well, yes. And no. I’m not sure how I feel about this adaptation.

*spoilers ahead*

First off, a disclaimer; I do not know Insurgent as well as I know Divergent, so I was not overly aware of every inaccuracy as I was watching it. However, a quick skim through it reminded me of some very clear things that were missing. First of all, something I did not mention in detail when I wrote about Divergent was the removal of characters. Watching this movie reminded me of some very important characters that have been cut. Firstly, Uriah. Uriah serves as a helpful friend to Tris during her journey. In the movie, a character shows up that I thought was Uriah, but apparently wasn’t. Tris said another name that I couldn’t decipher, but he showed up randomly and we, the audience, were supposed to trust that this random Dauntless was a helpful ally. That bothered me considerably. Other characters that were cut are Lynn, Shauna, Cara, and Edward. Tori and Marlene’s roles in the movie were also cut dramatically. Evelyn’s role was changed, especially when Evelyn kills Jeanine right before the credits roll.

Another major change was Four and Tris’ relationship dynamic. In the novel, Four and Tris fight almost constantly. They constantly keep secrets from each other, causing major divides in their trust. In the end, it helps to make their relationship stronger and they vow to keep no more secrets from each other. However, they did not fight at all in the movie. I mean, at all. Most of the time, Four looked at Tris with the equivalent of heart eyes, which, while accurate to his feelings for her, took away from the complexity of their relationship. This movie also was a lot of Four protecting Tris instead of them protecting each other, which is another major component of their relationship. Theo James and Shailene Woodley still had enough of chemistry together that I believed that they really loved each other, which was a change from the first film.

Speaking of Shailene Woodley, I have to say that I am pleasantly surprised with her job as Tris in Insurgent. Whether by a director’s choice or not, Shailene really embraced Tris’ character for this film. While Divergent was mostly her being quiet and soft, this movie was passive-aggressive, angry, and also scared. The movie immediately starts with her being confident, making plans, and fighting Peter. Her emotions were far more believable, rather than flat. The scenes where she was crying actually made me a little upset, which I would never expect. The actions scenes were more fluid, her attitude was more independent, and her motives remained truer. Granted, it wasn’t perfect, and there were still better options for the casting than Shailene. But I do have to admit that I wasn’t groaning every few minutes because Tris came off as weak. I was surprisingly okay with it all.

Theo James also did a fine job as Four, but I was not surprised by that at all. His portrayal of Four in Divergent was one of the few parts of the film I actually liked. Kate Winslet as Jeanine is still iffy to me; I’m not sure whether she was a complex and compelling villain, or someone who was trying too hard to seem like the “save humanity at all costs” leader. One person that I was also pleasantly surprised with was Ansel Elgort as Caleb. In Divergent, Caleb does not have many important scenes. In Insurgent, they gave him some compelling scenes to make the audience more caring of his character. While reading the books, I never liked Caleb. Even before he turns on Tris and helps Erudite, I did not care very much about his character. This might be because Ansel Elgort is a babe, but I still found myself caring about Caleb in this movie more than I ever had in the books, so that was a plus.

The last thing that really made me enjoy this movie more than Divergent were the visual effects, which everyone seems to agree was the best part of the film. In the later half of the movie, Tris has to undergo some simulations. These simulations involve the world breaking apart into shards and pieces, sending her spiraling through a crumbling world. I’ve always loved the visual effects of a world crumbling to pieces, and this element definitely helped keep the viewer intrigued. As an overall movie, Insurgent worked better than Divergent did. Even though it had to work off the first film, it still worked as a more interesting plot and story separate from the book or first film.

Even though I wasn’t terribly disappointed in this movie, I still am not enthused about it. First of all, the sex scene. Yes, you heard me. There is a sex scene in Insurgent. Granted, it’s not much; you see Tris unzip her vest, kiss Four, and then cut immediately to a shot of her waking up with a sheet wrapped around her. It’s nothing graphic, but the implications are obvious. When asked about it, Veronica Roth said that she didn’t see why they should wait until Allegiant. Now, when I read Allegiant, I definitely remember there never being a sex scene, but maybe I read the wrong book. Regardless, it happened. This scene really bothered me, and not so much because it was not in the series, but because it was so unnecessary, especially when you consider what happened in the first film. You might remember a certain article I wrote about the attempted rape scene in Divergent and the impact it had on rape culture. I’m still extremely angry about it. So, in comes a sex scene. A sex scene that happened after you made it “crucial” to include a potential rape scene to show how terrified Tris is of rape, or sexual intimacy, or whatever they were trying to prove. You make sure she says “I don’t want to move too fast,” and then, only a few weeks later (in canon), you include a sex scene. So, basically, whatever purpose your potential rape scene might have had is now completely gone. Any smidgen of hope there might have been for that scene to serve an actual, productive purpose is gone. Swept away in 30 seconds of screen time. Now, I’m not one to say that Tris can’t choose to have sex. Even though it clearly never happened in the novels, it’s understandable if they wanted to put it in the movie. Just don’t put a potential rape scene in the first movie that will now serve no purpose!

My other major problem with Insurgent was the ending. After going through each faction’s simulation to open the majestic Divergent box, a message plays from one of the Founders. It explains that the Divergent are the key to saving the world from their post-apocalyptic ways, and that they should open the wall to expand beyond the sheltered area of Chicago. Tris and Four then run off into the sunset or something. The point is, it ends on a happy note with the people of Amity running towards the wall to open it and save the world. Or something. This is not at all how the book ends! While a message from one of the Founders plays, it certainly does not end with a happy decision to save the world. Rather, the factionless they have allied with start shouting. Why, you might ask? The message is coming from a woman who says her new name in their society would be Edith Prior. Prior. As in Tris Prior. So the message that Tris’ mom and dad were hiding was actually from their grandma, or great-grandma. “And then the shouting begins,” is how the book ends. They start off Allegiant in a cell! Edith Prior is not mentioned at all. It’s just some woman. I’m wondering how they plan on doing Allegiant while they ended the movie this way.

I’m sure there were other inaccuracies that I haven’t mentioned. While Divergent was “I know these parts are not in the book”, Insurgent was “I know this part was in the book,” if that makes sense. Like I said, I do not know Insurgent was well as Divergent; it’s my least favorite in the series. The way that the movie was changed also made it harder to figure out which things specifically were changed. The base story was still the same, so that’s good, I suppose. In the end, the experience was more enjoyable than Divergent was, mainly because Shailene improved as Tris. It’s not anywhere close to the movie that I had in mind-especially since they took out the Amity serum scene, which was my favorite-but it wasn’t the worst, either.

What did you think of the movie? Leave a comment down below!