Insurgent highlights several things that could have made the first film better, and cements the notion that studios are stretching their material too thin.From the Hobbit trilogy to Mockingjay Part 1, it’s clear that the emphasis on eking out material to make a franchise more profitable has repeatedly proven detrimental to the stories being told. Insurgent proves yet another example, following directly on from the events in the first movie to tell a directionless story tale of Tris and her fellow fugitives basically running around in circles for half a movie, only to end up right where they were in the final act of the first movie, for a strong extended finale which would have worked so much better had it concluded Divergent instead. Indeed Divergent and Insurgent could probably be spliced together quite professionally to make one single, strong – albeit far from exceptional – action/adventure that could have at least been on par with The Maze Runner, even if not reaching Hunger Games heights. As separate entities, though, the filler just drowns out the rest, likely giving us a taste as to what the future holds with another one of these cash-cow two-part finales yet to come.Beyond the structure of the two films, the content itself often leaves much to be desired. Despite sparks of promise, the script is leaden and hackneyed; a random-story-generator mash-up of everything from The Hunger Games to Harry Potter, with cardboard cutout characters who you don’t care a jot about. Woodley showed real promise in The Descendants, and even managed to break free of the franchise for The Fault in Our Stars, but Insurgent appears to dictate that its cast – whether newbies or veterans – bring the least to the table, with uninspiring performances from all-comers. Jai Courtney may have been a terrible choice for the Terminator and Die Hard franchises, but his more villainous work in Jack Reacher proved him capable of being a mean bad guy. Here though? He’s just smug, along with almost everybody else, including Miles Teller (Whiplash), Octavia Spencer (The Help), Ray Stevenson (Rome), and even Naomi Watts and Kate Winslet – none of whom escape with their dignity intact. What a waste.
Picture QualityInsurgent is delivered with a strong, oftentimes outstanding 1080p/AVC-encoded 2D video presentation and a far less standout, although sporadically impressive, 1080p/MVC-encoded 3D video counterpart, on separate discs. Both are framed in the movie’s original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.40:1 widescreen.
On the 2D front, the solid, at times excellent presentation maintains strong detail and definition, retaining clarity almost throughout, whilst seldom revealing any overt digital manipulation and side-effects. Close-ups are standout, mid-range shots remain stable and strong, whilst longer shots are fractionally more variable but, for the most part, prove impressive too. The colour scheme is largely split into the more earthy yellow-and-brown dominated Amity farm setting of the first part and the more clinical whites and blues of the Erudite labs, but remains fairly broad and natural throughout, with healthy skins tones and strong black levels that afford us decent shadow detail which seldom falters, although is far from the best we’ve seen of late.
Between the fitfully impressive 3D and the far from flawless 2D, Insurgent doesn’t achieve the demo video status that it should have easily reached.
The 3D side of things builds on this strong foundation but unfortunately doesn’t really do a great deal with the extra dimension, with a few standout segments – normally revolving around the more heavily effects-based sequences, which are generally back-loaded in this outing – but not enough general dimensionality to impress. Depth is – for the majority of the runtime – pretty average at best, with this proving one of the less impressive conversions of late, although particular sequences do eventually stand out, with the VR segments showcasing Inception-esque dreamworlds with plenty of ‘xplodey things to fly around and at you (oddly, the trailer-spoiled train sequence from earlier is just appalling green-screen work but somehow manages to look better in 3D). Still, these are exceptions, rather than the rules to this presentation.
Sound QualityThe Blu-ray of Insurgent includes a Dolby Atmos soundtrack that can be listened to in 5.1, 7.1 or various Atmos configurations.
Cas Harlow reviewed the audio using a standard 5.1-channel setup - The accompanying soundtrack is far more impressive on the whole. The core Dolby TrueHD mix provides strong dialogue placement, dominating the frontal array and remaining clear and coherent throughout. The score – reminiscent, although far inferior to, Daft Punk’s outstanding work on Tron: Legacy – broods and engages throughout the piece, often more effectively than the movie itself, with plenty of LFE undercurrent to bring you to your knees. Effects are surprisingly nuanced, affording us some superior surround placement which is staggeringly impressive even without the added Atmos layers, leaving your head spinning to identify whether these are in-movie sounds or in your living room. Of course, when we hit VR-land, everything is ramped up to 11, with some outstanding dream-scapes that pop with aural creativity and offer utter immersion.
Dolby Atmos is used sparingly but effectively to enhance what is otherwise a rather mediocre film.
Steve Withers reviewed the audio using a 7.2.4-channel Dolby Atmos setup - Insurgent marks the eleventh Blu-ray that we've reviewed with an Atmos soundtrack and there's no doubt that sound designers are becoming more creative when using the object-based format. For the majority of Insurgent the overhead speakers are used sparingly to provide atmosphere and in one particular scene where attackers are firing from a position above the protagonists. There's also an effective scene where the action alternates between Kate Winslet talking to Tris and what she hears over loud speakers within the room she's trapped in. However once we enter the test simulations that make up the last thirty minutes of the film, the entire sound field bursts into life. The use of all the speakers completely envelopes you along with Tris in the virtual reality and gives the sequences a 'hyper-real' sense of immersion. The bass effects are also incredibly low, really shaking the foundations as entire cityscapes collapse around you. And yet, amongst all these effects the dialogue remains clear and the musical score is deftly interwoven. Insurgent isn't the best use of Atmos we've heard but it certainly helps to enhance an otherwise rather mediocre film.
Once almost as commonplace as DTS-HD MA for every BD release, Insurgent boasts one of the few PiP tracks we've reviewed this year.
Kick-starting with an Audio Commentary from the same producers who did one on Divergent, we get plenty of trivial titbits, but not as much technical information as you might have hoped for, and - in that cardinal sin of commentaries - protracted periods where the commentators appear more interested in watching the movie themselves than talking about it. The feature-length PiP track is far more impressive, playing the movie in the corner of the screen as hefty Behind the Scenes Featurettes revealing background detail into many of the elements, with seven key chapters available for access separately. A further couple of Featurettes promote interviews from key cast members about their characters, and there's also another Featurette breaking down the anticlimactic train fight sequence and a couple more looking at adapting this instalment in the book series. The disc is rounded off by an extensive stills Gallery and some Preview Trailers.
Probably better watched back-to-back with the first movie, Insurgent has much of what Divergent was missing, but similarly fails to justify its separate existence.
Telling a meandering, inconsequential story that could have easily concluded the first film rather than been padded out into its own entity, there are some standout segments of Insurgent but little else, and the film suffers from the same dearth of interesting characters who you root for/hate even beyond its stretch-too-thin plotting.
At least the BD release is reasonably impressive, although again there are even limitations here, with what should have been easy demo video revealing itself to be far from perfect 2D and fitfully effective 3D, and only really the stunning Atmos-flavoured audio track (and perhaps the rare PiP track on the extras) proving worthy of such a leading title. Fans will find it hard to resist and will find little to really complain about, but those who weren't completely overwhelmed by the first film shouldn't find this all that much of an improvement.
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