Source material is the biggest issue Insurgent faces. The second book in the Divergent series just isn’t as good as the first. The film is well acted and the production team is clearly talented; they made the most with what they were given. But they weren’t given much.
The most original plot points of the first movie are gone, though Insurgent does maintain the creative dream simulations. But it has lost the tests and the training of the first movie, in my opinion the most compelling aspects. The main characters Tris and Four are no longer in Dauntless headquarters, and are now on the run after being “outed” as divergent. Tris no longer needs to hide her identity, and thus the conflict of the first film is gone and replaced with a much more confusing premise. The second movie revolves around a mysterious box in the possession of the main villain Jeanine—a box that only a divergent can open. It is pretty clear to the audience that Tris is the one who will open it. So for the first part of the film Tris and Four run around and almost wait to get caught. The characters do little for the first 50 minutes. The best part of the film is definitely the drug-induced simulations, which benefit from an expanded budget. But they should have appeared in the beginning of the movie, as they only really get going in the last 30 minutes.
The acting in Insurgent is better than most acting in comparable films like Twilight or The Maze Runner. Shailene Woodley is in high demand in Hollywood, and director Robert Schwentke puts her to work. Actor Theo James (Four) plays her love interest well. He manages to deliver some of the sappier lines in the film without making the audience cringe, a difficult job that Robert Pattinson never managed. James’s character also suffers from the flaws in source material, given far less to do in this installment. Most of the time he’s just onscreen to beat up bad guys and make eyes at Woodley. Miles Teller’s character Peter even comments on this at one point, a moment of comedy the movie needs. Teller’s comedic side provides one of the only improvements over Divergent. This series needs to take itself less seriously. At the end of the day, I did enjoy myself during the movie; I am a fan of spending a rainy afternoon with some young adult fiction. But Insurgent pales in comparison to Divergent.