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'Insurgent' gets poor reviews – will the next movies be better?

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(Read caption) 'Insurgent' stars Theo James (l.), Shailene Woodley (center), and Miles Teller (r.).

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The movie “Insurgent,” based on the second book in Veronica Roth’s dystopian young adult “Divergent” series, is being released on March 20 and is so far receiving tepid reviews.

“Insurgent” currently holds a score of 43 out of 100 on the review aggregator website Metacritic. It’s actually only a bit lower than the score currently held by the first film, “Divergent,” which has a score of 48, so neither have been well-reviewed.

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Will the next movie in the series improve things? According to Deadline, the final book in Veronica Roth’s series, “Allegiant,” is being split into two films. And if movie history is anything to go by, that may mean “Allegiant – Part 1” will be even more poorly reviewed.

As noted by Monitor film critic Peter Rainer, conventional wisdom holds that for a movie series, creating a middle film is hard to do. “Most middle movies in a trilogy simply mark time,” he wrote in a 2013 review. So much of the action is often saved for a last installment that a second-to-last movie can be boring. Exceptions include the “Star Wars” second film “The Empire Strikes Back” and “The Godfather: Part II.” (Does the last one count if the third film came 16 years later and is widely regarded as not very good?) 

However, with adaptations of young adult series, the problem seems to often lie with whatever the second-to-last movie in the series is. You see, those behind the “Harry Potter” movies split the final seventh book, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,” into two films. Other young adult series, from “Twilight” to “The Hunger Games,” have followed suit. The “Twilight” four-book series was adapted as five films and “Hunger Games,” a trilogy, is being adapted as four movies. As we noted previously, the “Divergent” trilogy is being adapted as four films, too.

So for many of these movie series, the second-to-last installments suffer the problems originally attributed to a second movie in that it seems like the movie’s plot is waiting for the action of the final film. “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1,” the second-to-last movie in the “Twilight” series, has the second-lowest Metacritic score of all the “Twilight” films (the second movie in the series, "New Moon," just beats it by one point). And the second-to-last “Hunger Games” movie, “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1,” felt “like a massive placeholder for the grand finale,” Rainer wrote in his movie review. He gave the movie a C, the lowest grade of any of the “Games” films so far. Even “Potter” suffered from this. “Deathly Hallows – Part 1” holds a 65 score on Metacritic, while “Deathly Hallows – Part 2,” the final movie and the one that had – you guessed it – all the action, has a much better score of 87. 

So maybe those behind “Insurgent” shouldn’t be worrying about the poor reviews – they should be hoping to avoid the trend of audiences being bored with their next movie, “Allegiant – Part 1.”