Movie Review: ‘Insurgent’
The 2015 season of blockbuster adaptations of YA books kicks off with Insurgent, the second installment in the Divergent series (I’m not the one who came up with comparing Divergent: Insurgent to 30 Rock‘s The Rural Juror, but I happily use it). Like its fellow surfers on the Hunger Game‘s wave of popularity, the Divergent series is set in a post-apocalyptic dystopia in which society is divided into distinct social strata and everything has a weird name, and features a tough young person who becomes the focal point of a revolution. Also, the last book will be split into two movies. At this point, you can play Mad Libs with the genre, and like it’s predecessor, Insurgent does naught to distinguish itself.
After the events of the first film, Beatrice “Tris” Prior (Shailene Woodley), her boytoy Four (Theo James), her brother Caleb (Ansel Elgort, whom you will recall played Woodley’s love interest in The Fault in Our Stars. Ew), and her rival Peter (Miles Teller, whom you will recall played Woodley’s love interest in The Spectacular Now. Ew) are on the run. Their futuristic city-state nestled in the ruins of Chicago has been torn apart by internal strife, with the “Abnegation” faction (selfless people — i.e. pushovers) destroyed and the “Dauntless” faction (brave people — i.e. idiots and assholes) fractured. Jeanine (Kate Winslet), the leader of “Erudite” (intelligent people — i.e. villains), has taken over the city and is searching for individuals who are “Divergent” (they have qualities belonging to more than one faction), because one is needed in order to open a mysterious box which contains a vital plot device of some sort. Tris, you may remember, is Divergent, so she and Jeanine are of course going to come to a head at some point.
It can’t be said definitively, since two movies in this series remain to be seen, but it seems that the Divergent series is one book’s worth of plot stretched out over three books. The first film mostly focused on Tris and co’s training in Dauntless, before shifting into inter-faction strife at a very late stage. It’s a first act turned into a whole story. Astonishingly, even less happens in this film, which shuffles its characters from one location to another for no other reason than to let the audience get to see the different factions. But all this really accomplishes is laying bare how little thought has been put into this world, how none of these castes have any development beyond their singular defining characteristics. It’s impossible to imagine a way in which this could be read as any kind of decent social commentary, though the film at least doesn’t pretend to have any to offer.
Even beyond the writing, nothing and no one involved in this movie appear to be trying. Not the actors, who trudge through terrible dialogue with either mumbles to denote seriousness or shouting to suggest emotion. Not the designers, who toss a color scheme on each faction and call it a day. Not the director, editors, or cinematographer, who work in standard visual strokes and nothing more. The most Insurgent does to stand out is delve inside its protagonist’s mindset, with multiple dream sequences and an extended climax involving a virtual reality simulation that’s trippy in the most boring manner possible. But Tris is a dull lead, her concerns over whether she’s too violent failing to involve. If you want to tide yourself over until the last Hunger Games, just watch any of the first three films in that series again.
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