‘Insurgent’ Movie Previews: This is Making Me Nervous!

Another Insurgent trailer released today, along with a “Sneak Peak” that includes commentary from the actors, director and Veronica Roth herself. As much as I am looking forward to the film and want it to succeed, there are more than a couple of elements that are making me a bit wary about getting my hopes up for something that was as good an adaptation as the first movie.

First, the things I liked:

  • Shailene Woodley’s cute, short haircut.  People have been abuzz (pardon the pun) about this since last summer but, as someone who has had short hair all her life, I love it.  Few movie-makers or comic book writers have ever caught onto the fact that long hair just isn’t that practical in hand-to-hand combat.
  • Octavia Spencer as Johanna.  This was a surprising casting choice to me, but a very interesting one, and I loved her work in “The Help.”  I didn’t see the scar, though.
  • Amity compound.   It looks beautiful and very much like I pictured from the series.

Things that worry me:

  • A mysterious “box” that only Divergent can open?  What the….  ??  Ms. Roth explains in the Sneak Peek that the box is a way of putting some of her favorite scenes from the book into one place, so maybe it will serve a good purpose.  But personally, I’d prefer my favorite scenes from the book in the movie, in the order they were originally presented.
  • I saw at least three different clips of Tris holding or firing a gun.  No, no, she is supposed to have a crippling phobia of guns in this movie, remember?
  • Why is Four dodging trains like he was a 12-year-old in “Stand By Me?”
  • Naomi Watts looks too young, clean and pretty to have been a battered wife exiled to the squalor of Factionlessness for the last decade or so.  It doesn’t help that Theo James looks every bit of his 30 years of age here.  I could buy her as Four’s older sister, but not his mother. By my calculations, this Evelyn would have been pregnant during her Choosing Ceremony.
  • Why is Tris doing Tarzan swings off on a roof into a flying, burning freight elevator to rescue her mom?  I don’t recall that from any of her fear landscapes.
  • Finally, what is going on in Jeanine’s lab?  Functional MRI is already an awesome, futuristic type of technology…  why jazz it up?  I have no idea what those snake-like cables jabbing into Tris are supposed to be, but best I can tell, poking tubes into someone’s back, arms and legs is not a great way of visualizing the brain.  I have a feeling I’m not going to get my mirror neuron discussion.

Overall, this is pointing to something that is first and foremost an action movie.  The exploding walls and Tris bursting through the glass makes me think that, as in the end of the Divergent movie, the mental showdown between Tris and Jeanine will be reduced to a purely physical one. While that may make for a better image on the screen, the Erudite in me is going to miss the more cerebral nature of the struggle.


  1. Thank you for this helpful review of the Sneak Peeks!

    Why do you think the film makers are going this route, Prof Freeman? Did the first Divergent film not win sufficiently at the box office so the producers have decided to depart from the original novels? Or could this move to physical thrills from predominantly interior psychological drama be preparation for the Allegiant finish — or changes to that ending?

  2. Louise Freeman says

    I think Divergent was as successful as anyone hoped it would be, but the filmmakers clearly think that more action— the word “action” is repeated five times in a Sneak Peek of less than three minutes– will equal more ticket sales. According to IMDB, the budget for Divergent was doubled after the success of Hunger Games, and clearly they spent a lot of the extra cash on action sequences and special effects. So, I think there is motivation to spend even more in Insurgent.

    Ashley Judd was great in Divergent, and my guess is the filmmakers did not want to lose her for this movie— much like the Hunger Games people kept Effie Trinket in Mockingjay. My hope is, these scenes are an indication of how much her mother’s death is haunting Tris. Given Will’s reduced role in Divergent (and the loss of the romance between him and Tris’s BFF, Christina), it would be harder to show Tris carrying the huge guilt load she did in the books, so perhaps her mother’s death will serve that role. Though they have clearly lost the associated gun-aversion.

    As for the lab scene, I can see how a “battle” where one party is in a scanner and the other safely outside a one-way mirror could come across as a bit dull, even with lots of action-packed simulations. Much as I would love to see Tris “wake up” from one, yell “You’ll have to do better than that, Jeannine!” as she did in the book and watch Kate Winslet tear her own hair out in frustration, I can see how that wouldn’t play well on-screen, and might even come off as unintentionally funny. It’s the same factors that got us a scene of Harry and Voldemort chasing each other through the castle and hurling themselves off cliffs instead of circling each other in the Great Hall, while Harry urges repentance. Having Jeannine physically present at the end of Divergent worked (see http://www.mtv.com/news/1724666/divergent-change-from-book-to-movie/ which reminds me, I still need to post on that, and the rape scene, right?). My guess is that the filmmakers see a physical confrontation in the lab as the next logical step.

    As for the mysterious “box” — I still don’t know what is going on there. Given the widespread disappointment with Allegiant, it could be that the films will shift direction a bit and maybe the box is the first step. But I don’t see how more gunfire, explosions and special effects are going to lead to a genetic explanation that makes some sort of scientific sense, which is far more important to me than a happy ending for Tris and Tobias. But, then again, I’m a middle-aged academic who wants a lecture on neurophysiology inserted into the middle of the film, so I might not be the target audience.

  3. “So I might not be the target audience”

    Too funny! No, I think the overseas DVD markets are probably the constituency at which the revision artists are remodeling Divergent. Violence, chases, and ardor translate into a universal visual language of emotional triggers and stimuli.

    I look forward to your look back on the first movie in anticipation of the second!

  4. After reading your First Impressions, I think that Insurgent is going to have to make up for some of the important details that were left out of Divergent, such as Edward and why he is now factionless and wearing an eye patch. (As an aside, I saw a deleted scene where Edward was stabbed in the eye and you see Peter in the background smiling, which I thought was both chilling and sadly deleted. I suppose the PG-13 rating was the reason for that. Sadly.) I think there are several cause and effect aspects missing, such as Dauntless being a rough, tough place instead of a completely dysfunctional faction run by sadists with an underlying motive of power.

    As for the action…this middle aged woman is all over that! I find the concept of the box (likely a high-tech holographic re-imaging of the Edith Prior video, plus who knows what) intriguing. But I am also not married to the source material. I think a good story surpasses staying true to the book. To me, the book is a concept which can be twisted in Matrix-like ways. (Speaking of the Matrix, did anyone else notice Four calling Tris “Trin” when he is awakened from his drug-induced stupor during his and Tris’ final fight scene? I had a bit of Matrix deju vu. Much like the Insurgent trailer with the hoses latching onto Tris’s neck as she is suspended in Jeanine’s lab. Not only that, but the “She. Is. The. One.” wasn’t even an obtuse reference, it was completely in your face.)

    I think there is going to be a good amount of, uhm, divergence from the source material, which makes me think that the final film may give many unhappy readers their Happily Ever After ending. I also think the addition of more action sequences is a desire to bring in a larger male audience.

    I struggle with how they are going to manage the (what I found) tedious inter-relational conflicts between Four and Tris in the source material, which were both very young adult in nature and not in line with (especially) Four in the film. You catch some of his inner conflict in his fear simulation, but nothing like the raging conflict of his constant feelings of being unworthy of Tris’s affection. And Insurgent (the book) has internal conflict from both the leads start to finish.

    I think the second film is going to be better than the first. I found Divergent to be boring in some places while they were building and explaining the world. In some areas, not enough was explained (why go to your knees when the dog attacked? Tris “thinking aloud” would have helped there and in other places.) which I think would have helped in explaining that world and Tris’s mind, which is so important to the plot. Her aptitude for Erudite was important to the concept of her being a Divergent. Which makes me think that the next film, indeed, has a lot of things to make up for; a lot of ‘splaining to do.

    Nice site, by the way.

  5. Never really liked the movie but it does in a way show a society that can segregate to groups according to their skills. That is the way Hitler did it.

  6. I liked this movie, its not beautifully done as a Black Mirror episode but it does provide us with a look to an alternative future.

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