"Insurgent," the second installment in Veronica Roth's "Divergent" trilogy, is a true middle book, and the adaptation is no exception. There's less background exposition and more plot twists and character development -- not to mention a cliffhanger ending. The movie follows Tris (Shailene Woodley) and Four (Theo James) as they try to escape the clenches of Erudite leader Jeanine Matthews (Kate Winslet) and her Dauntless henchmen. On the run, Tris and Four realize they must form alliances -- with the neutral Amity, the Dauntless unwilling to follow Jeanine, and the Factionless led by the mysterious Evelyn (Naomi Watts), someone from Four's past. (In case you can't remember anything from the first movie, here are seven things to know before you see "Insurgent.")
"Insurgent" is rated PG-13 "for intense violence and action throughout, some sensuality, thematic elements and brief language." If you have an elementary-school-aged kid who read the books early, like in 3rd or 4th grade, make sure they're prepared to see the brutal violence, the Erudite arrests, torture and killing of Divergents, and the mind-control suicide in the movie. Of course, for tweens and teens who've already read Roth's books and are ready to see more of Tris and Four, this is one of Spring's must-see action thrillers.
1. Read it then see it.
"Insurgent" is the middle book in Veronica Roth's best-selling dystopian trilogy, and the second of four adaptations (like "The Deathly Hallows," "Breaking Dawn," and "Mockingjay," Roth's final book "Allegiant" is being divided into two films), so you will be a little lost if you didn't see or read "Divergent." Book fans familiar with the entire trilogy will be able to count the many differences between the book and the adaptation. If your kid is interested in seeing the movie but hasn't tried the books yet, encourage them to read it first and then reward them with the movie.
2. How does your kid handle violence in movies?
Like most dystopian stories, this is a violent tale -- but not quite as violent as it is on the page. The violence on screen includes execution-style assassinations and murders, forced suicide via mind control, torture, and mass shootings with sedatives and tracing devices (almost all of which is condoned or commanded by the Erudite-run government). And, of course, there is lots of bloody hand-to-hand combat. If your kids are sensitive to violence ("The Hunger Games" and the last "Harry Potter" movies are a good gauge), then they might not be ready to see "Insurgent."
3. Do you worry about sex/language?
Despite the PG-13 rating and the abundance of violence, the language is fairly minimal (just a couple of "bulls-t," "s-t," "bitch," and one barely audible "f-k"). As for the romance, the love story really heats up in "Insurgent" – but basically only for one scene. Tris may have said she wanted to "take things slow" in "Divergent," but she changes her mind in "Insurgent," and (SPOILER ALERT) she and Four end up sleeping together (something they definitely don't do in the second book). Despite the fact that the love scene isn't canon, it is, at least, tastefully depicted.
4. Who will enjoy the movie most?
The ideal audience is older tweens, teens and adults who are already fans of Veronica Roth's trilogy or the first film adaptation. A close second would be anyone who's a huge follower of the stars (Woodley, James, Winslet, Teller in particular). Any of Roth's millions of loyal readers will wan to see the adaptation, but those not in the know may be confused if they haven't recently seen "Divergent." Parents unsure about the movie, should use similar young-adult adaptations as a good indicator of whether "Insurgent" is a good pick. After the movie, you can also have a good conversation about the idea of selflessness, sacrifice, and when it's morally justified to break societal rules.
5. What are critics saying about "Insurgent"?
Critical reaction to the dystopian sequel has been decidedly mixed to negative, with a "mixed" score of 42 on Metacritic and a "rotten" 33 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. "Unlike 'Divergent,' which required pages of premise-establishing exposition, Insurgent is more purely action-centric, as the hunters hunt and the hunted flee through the trees, hopping freight trains, trying to elude capture," writes Steven Rea of the "Philadelphia Inquirer." Kenneth Turan of "The Los Angeles Times" agrees: "A more effective, adult-friendly film than its predecessor." On the flip side, Soren Anderson of "The Seattle Times" complained about the confusing plot: ""Will someone please tell me what's going on?" Tris cries at one point, and she could be speaking for the audience as the plot becomes ever more muddled."