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Arts in Review

Insurgent is a worthy sequel to Divergent — and holds its own, too

The first time I went to see Insurgent, I didn’t realize it was a sequel.

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By Ashley Mussbacher (The Cascade) – Email

Print Edition: April 1, 2015

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The first time I went to see Insurgent, I didn’t realize it was a sequel. Completely clueless, I watched halfway through it before I started feeling like I was missing at least half of the storyline. Insurgent, the second part of Veronica Roth’s Divergent series, is a pretty great stepping-stone to the last installment of the trilogy, Allegiant. But it’s also a fantastic starting point, apparently.

Usually sequels are incredibly hard to follow (especially if you go in uninformed) and boring, since the author or director just wants to get to the good parts near the end of the series. While I was confused for the first bit, the storyline and characters were intriguing enough to pull me through it, and the ultimate goal was straightforward so I could follow it.

What I was most pleased with in the movie was the portrayal of Tris, the main protagonist. I always feel let down by main female characters because too often they need a male counterpart to help them overcome obstacles. Not Tris. While she does have a boyfriend who is supportive at times, Tris overcomes her challenges on her own.

More on the point of depicting a “strong female character,” I didn’t feel that Tris was stuffed full of stereotypical “masculine” qualities just so she could maintain a leadership role in the film. She is a trailblazer and a fighter, and has a temper at times. But she is also a bleeding heart with an incredibly soft side. Ultimately, her characterization felt real and dynamic, and did not fall into a cookie-cutter model of the “strong female character.” She’s just a person. And this is what I most closely followed in the journey to kill the main antagonist — who also happens to be a woman.

In sequels, it’s easy to have holes or valley-sized sags in the plot where nothing much happens. There is a slow bit when the group of characters, allegedly in hiding in Amity, is gearing up to assassinate the head of the government system, Jeanine Matthews. But that part of the story was a much-needed staircase for me to understand the goal of the plot and get a sense of the characters. For someone who had watched Divergent, however, it might have been unnecessary.

With the exception of that one sag, the rest of the movie was exceptional in its plot twists and action. I was shocked at how many times the author and director surprised me with moments that might have been cut or avoided completely — for instance, the near-murder of a child. It didn’t feel set up for mere shock value. By that point in the plot I was convinced the people running the government would stop at nothing and kill anyone in their way. At no point did I question its believability, nor was I pulled out of the movie to question something about logistics of a character’s decision or action.

Insurgent made me want to watch the first movie and read the books. For a sequel, that’s pretty damn great.

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