Friday, May 1, 2015

Insurgent Review

Last year I reviewed Divergent, and decided that while it was much better than the book, it still wasn't a wholly remarkable movie. I also said that I'd just barely liked it enough to check out it sequels. That is essentially the only reason I ended up at the movie theaters watching The Divergent Series' second installment, Insurgent. While Divergent was underwhelming, Insurgent proved even more so.
Following the surges of unrest among the factions at the conclusion of the previous movie, Tris Prior (Shailene Woodley) is on the run with her love interest, Four (Theo James); her brother, Caleb (Ansel Elgort); and escaped Dauntless soldier, Peter (Miles Teller). The four of them have taken refuge in the Amity faction until they can formulate a plan. Racing against time, they must find out what Tris's family sacrificed their lives to protect and why Jeanine (Kate Winslet), the leader of the power-hungry Erudite faction's elite, will do anything to stop them. Haunted by her past choices but desperate to protect the ones she loves, Tris, with Four at her side, faces one challenge after another as they unlock the truth about the past and ultimately the future of their world.
For most of the movie there really isn't much that actually happens. There is certainly is a sense of urgency, but why time is of the essence frequently eluded me. In the wreckage of Abnegation, where Tris and Caleb's family lived, Jeanine's mind-controlled Dauntless soldiers find a box with the symbols of each of the five factions on it. Jeanine is certain it contains data from the post apocalyptic city's founders and the means to end the Divergence problem. Of course, only a Divergent can open it, but none of the ones Jeanine captures actually comes remotely close to doing it. Even when Tris and company figure out what it is, it's not as if Jeanine was anywhere near close to opening it.
Our heroes end up talking a lot about grief and forgiveness, identity and loyalty, politics and love, but never anything deeper than the most simplistic superficial speculations on such topics.  They spend so much time doing this that it doesn't allow for very much actual plot. In fact, things don't get moving until around the third act. It's a good thing they throw in random and usually unwarranted fight scenes, or I would have fallen asleep early on.
In my previous review, I pointed out that The Divergent series bears a more-than-passing resemblance to The Hunger Games; dystopian future, society divided into groups, rebellion, searching for a sense of identity, worrying about being different, etc. Insurgent feels even closer to The Hunger Games. There's a leader of the Factionless, Evelyn Johnson-Eaton (Naomi Watts), who wants to overthrow the Jeanine, and believes that war is inevitable. This sounds a whole lot like President Coin in Mockingjay. For Divergent, I thought things were similar to The Hunger Games because someone was trying to capitalize on its popularity. But for Insurgent there are so many more similarities that I can't help but wonder if there's potential for a copyright lawsuit. The Hunger Games did it first, and did it much better.
Tris often ends up having some trippy dreams and is put in some hallucinogenic simulations like she was in the first movie. The CGI and visual effects were even more impressive than they were in the previous film. Oddly, a lot of things (people, buildings, locations, etc.) shatter, crumble, and drift away in these simulations. This visually complements the overarching plot device that the faction system is weakening and crumbling away, but made less sense for Tris's character to have dreams like that. Insurgent was quite a bit more violent than the previous movie when they actually had action scenes. It stays safely in the PG-13 realm by having pointblank headshots occur just off screen, but they seemed to be trying to push what they could get away with. It might not be something to let younger audiences watch.
While Divergent was an uninspiring movie with a dull script, Insurgent was even more so. Again we've got some above average actors with very poor material to work with, some excellent visual effects that were genuinely interesting to see, and a story that lacked depth and narrative. Insurgent drew too much inspiration from  The Hunger Games, so you may as well just watch The Hunger Games and get a much better story. Even with its open ending, Insurgent has enough closure that doesn't truly require future stories. Unfortunately the third book is being made into a two-part set of movies, also like The Hunger Games. Insurgent wasn't as good as Divergent and that wasn't very good to begin with. It's not worth seeing in theaters, it's scarcely worth the cost to rent. I'd avoid Insurgent unless you were a real fan of the books.

Did anyone notice that Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort play siblings here and lovers in The Fault in our Stars? Can you think of other examples of actors playing siblings in one title and lovers in another? It's kind of weird to think about. Comment below and let me know what you think!

1 comment:

  1. Just noticed this yesterday, but the actors playing the Twins in Avengers: Age of Ultron also played a husband and wife in the most recent Godzilla film.