Beatrice Prior must confront her inner demons and continue her fight against a powerful alliance which threatens to tear her society apart with the help from others on her side.
'Insurgent' is the product of a new type of filmmaking that historically started with James Cameron's 'Titanic' but has been progressively worsening since the box-office giant that is the 'Twilight' series. It's a type directly targeted at a specific demographic and audience that more often than not guarantees high returns against its investment, essentially making it critic proof. And I'm not simply generalizing YA books adapted into movies, familiar stories with an established fanbase, because 'Ender's Game' and 'The Giver' didn't exactly satisfy expectations. Meanwhile, the 'Harry Potter' and 'Hunger Games' films successfully defy the discussion, but the 'Transformers' franchise and 'Fifty Shades of Grey' are further evidence of what I'm trying to arrive at. The larger issue at hand is a seemingly growing generation of moviegoers who care little for narrative quality or development and want it replaced with hyperbolic melodrama or amplified fantasy that feels like a thrill ride attraction. ('Jurassic World' also falls into this category of bad movies, so be warned of my future review.)
This second installment in the 'Divergent' franchise, based on the surprisingly popular books by Veronica Roth, picks up minutes after the first movie. Or, at least, that's what we are lead to believe. After Kate Winslet's voice, playing the leader of the Erudite faction Jeanine Matthews, is heard from a prominently displayed hologram message that insinuates a new totalitarian state, Tris (Shailene Woodley), Four (Theo James), Peter (Miles Teller) and Caleb (Ansel Elgort) are seen running out the woods to the Amity compound in the hopes of finding sanctuary. There, Tris is confronted with the bodies of those who've died for her. But we're soon given respite from this nightmarish scene when it turns out the entire sequence is, in fact, a nightmare from which Tris quickly awakens. In protest to her bad dreams, the young heroine decides to cut her hair short. It doesn't make any sense, but hey, what's the point of inciting a rebellion if you don't look good in the process. Besides, this dystopic future apparently still has access to a good hairstylist.
But let us not quibble over such silly details like who is Tris's barber with the talent of making blond highlights appear natural or how great it must be to live in a post-apocalyptic Chicago with mousse, hair gel and a blow dryer readily available. The larger issue at stake here is a movie and story practically littered with false promises, red herrings and MacGuffins. Sequences, like that gotcha opening, is not the only time the filmmakers pull the rug from under the audience with an emotional fake out. Director Robert Schwentke, who's given us a few respectable features along with the god-awful 'R.I.P.D.,' reverts to cheap tactics on several occasions, practically littering the entire the movie with such deceptive schemes. This only succeeds in negating the plot's emotional core — Tris dealing with the amount of violence and death surrounding her so-called specialness. We don't care or sympathize with the protagonist's dilemma because she can simply wake up at any given moment from a bad dream, rendering whatever internal conflict we just witnessed entirely moot.
By the time we finally reach the moment when Tris performs the Sim trials, we're drained from the constant back and forth between reality and Tris's imagination. We get it; she needs help. But seriously, among the ruins of the city with an abundance of hairstylists, there isn't at least one therapist for treating the poor's girl obvious psychological issues. And if the first movie already failed to make any logical sense, the sequel amazingly expands on its illogical premise and frankly grows dumber. A mysterious box — designed by the same person who created Pinhead's puzzle box? — has been discovered, and of course, only one person can miraculously open it to expose a secret message from the founders of the five faction society. (The voice of Dana Carvey's Church Lady would appropriately interrupt here with her thoughts.) On top of this, we are made to contend with several senseless betrayals, absurdly contradictory double-crosses and characters being once angry with each other but soon forgotten without a single apology ever spoken or a reasonable conversation shared.
From a script by Brian Duffield, Mark Bomback ('Dawn of the Planet of the Apes') and producer Akiva Goldsman, 'Insurgent' is a terrible piece of motion picture entertainment that makes little to no logical sense with a cleverly disguised disdain and mistrust of intelligence and rational knowledge. And don't tell me it doesn't because — especially considering the author's public declaration of faith — we need only look at the plot's enemy: a group dedicated to the pursuit of intellectual understanding. Added to that, we have a story arc riddled with distractingly contrived coincidences and much-too-convenient plot devices to ever be believable or feel remotely authentic. Naomi Watts's character is arguably the biggest offender. And this is precisely the problem with this new type of filmmaking, which has become increasingly popular. As long as it looks pretty on the screen, the action is made overtly exciting and characters grossly melodramatic, narrative failures and the lack of logic goes ignored. An intelligent and genuinely gripping story is a thing of the past in the post-apocalyptic future, replaced by bigger, louder action and histrionics.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Summit Home Entertainment brings 'The Divergent Series: Insurgent' to 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray as a two-disc combo pack with a flyer for a Digital HD Copy. At the moment, we are unable to verify if the correct size of the content, but the dual-layered UHD disc sits comfortably opposite a Region A locked, BD50 disc inside a black, eco-cutout case with a glossy slipcover. At startup, the disc goes straight to the main menu with full-motion clips and music playing in the background.
The dystopian sequel incites a factionless rebellion on glorious Ultra HD Blu-ray with the help of a great-looking HEVC H.265 encode in HDR10, soaring to new heights and delivering an appreciable upgrade over its Blu-ray counterpart. But, like its predecessor, the results are not the night-and-day difference expected, which is not to say fans won't notice the many visible improvements throughout. As with the first movie, the stylized photography of Florian Ballhaus and the source used for this 4K edition have a great deal to do with the picture quality. It was shot on the Arri Alexa series of digital HD cameras with a max resolution of 3.4K while some sequences were filmed in true 4K resolution (4096 x 2160) thanks to the Phantom Flex4K and Red Scarlet high-speed digital cameras. The raw data was later mastered in 2K digital intermediate, and according to IMDb.com, a 4K source is available. However, it's uncertain which of the two was used, but considering the history of titles from Lionsgate and Summit, I suspect the studio likely upconverted the available DI elements rather than striking a new master.
But whatever the case may be, the freshly-minted digital transfer displays better definition and clarity of background information, exposing the small threading and stitching in the denim outfits. The textured fabric of the various jackets are resolute while the tiniest hint of rust on aging metal and giant concrete slabs are plainly visible, and viewers can make out every flaw and imperfection on the crumblings ruins of Chicago. The veins and fine lines in the leaves of surrounding foliage are distinct, and the rough edges of tree barks are razor sharp. While the majority of the photography looks splendid throughout, the best moments take place within the wooded section of Amity where every leaf moving on branches in the distance is crystal clear. Although not much brighter than the BD, the 2160p video also arrives with spot-on, pitch-perfect contrast and brilliant, crisp specular highlights that pop and make for a slightly more dazzling picture. Brightness levels display full-bodied blacks with exceptional gradational differences and poorly-lit sequences reveal the smallest object in the background while still able to see the distinction from the shadows and dark clothing. There are few murky spots, but overall, the movie looks great.
Presented in a 2.40:1 aspect ratio, the presentation is also a bit more colorful than its predecessor, though not by a large margin. There isn't anything to suggest the source was color graded to take advantage of the wider color gamut, but primaries definitely show a jump in quality with the blue of Jeanine's outfits looking dynamic and the red in blood glow a bit deeper and more crimson. The best moments are during the scenes of Tris's trials with the colors of the holographic screens beaming with energy and the flaming fire debris in the sims radiate with distinct clarity and a rich, sumptuous glow. The orange-teal cinematography, however, favors secondary hues, which illuminate the screen with a vivid array of picture-perfect warmth and richness that make for some beautiful wide shot photography. Facial complexions appear natural with lifelike textures and a healthy rosy pigmentation in the cast that feels authentic. It may not be a massive upgrade, but the 4K presentation is nonetheless an improvement.
The sci-fi sequel rebels with the same action-packed Dolby Atmos soundtrack, which defaults to a Dolby TrueHD 7.1 track for those not equipped for the new codec.
Imaging feels wide and expansive with lots of clear, flawless movement across the front soundstage, displaying terrifically well-balanced channel separation and very good off-screen effects. Dialogue is distinct and precise in the center with exceptional intonation in the voices during the most dramatic moments, allowing actors to really demonstrate their talents. There's plenty of excellent detailing and fidelity in the mid-range, exhibiting room-penetrating highs during loud action sequences and lots of warmth in the mids during the many melodramatic, often heated exchanges. The low-end also feels fuller and a tad more powerful in this lossless mix, digging just a bit deeper to make walls rattle and providing the action with some serious weight.
Rear activity is fantastic with several discrete effects when the action goes into high gear and many subtle atmospherics during quieter, more intimate moments. From beginning to end, the soundfield maintains an open and expansive sense of space where small details can be heard along the sides and in the back. In Atmos, utilizing the overhead speakers, the design fails to create the immersive 3D dome-like effect one would expect from the format, often times being noticeably silent in a coupe spots. That's not to say, the codec doesn't come with its moments, such as the film's opening segment when the voice of a Kate Winslet hologram convincingly travels from the front and over to the back, then moves back to sides and front again. The best segment for appreciating the Atmos track is the Dauntless and Amity Sim during the second half of the movie where debris and noise smoothly pan overhead and all around, creating a very satisfying and enveloping soundscape.
Finally, a back and forth comparison between both lossless mixes reveals the TrueHD track to be the stronger of the two with a more activity that's consistent and immersive while the Atmos option comes with too many noticeable pockets of silence in the overhead speakers.
'Insurgent,' the second installment in 'The Divergent Series,' is guilty of the same crime most sequels commit: going bigger and louder with less substance. However, the movie amazingly manages to go a step further with a narrative that's more nonsensical than the first cleverly disguising a disdain for intelligence and filled with grossly melodramatic characters.
This Ultra HD Blu-ray arrives with a great-looking 4K video presentation. Though the heavily stylized photography is taken into consideration, it nonetheless offers some noteworthy and appreciable moments. Added to that, the movie arrives with the same excellent and satisfying Dolby Atmos audio presentation, joined by an identical collection of supplements featured in its Blu-ray counterpart. Overall, the package is recommended for loyal fans and early adopters enthusiastic about the new format.
Portions of this review also appear in our coverage of Dunkirk on Blu-ray. This post features unique Vital Disc Stats, Video, and Final Thoughts sections.