Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Movie Review #233: "Insurgent" (2015)

Ticket Price: $12.50
Director: Robert Schwentke
Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 1 hour, 59 minutes
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After escaping outside the wall, Tris (Shailene Woodley), Four (Theo James) and the others who fought against Jeanine (Kate Winslet) and her army, are hiding out in Amity. Jeanine has declared them and all other Divergents outlaws and demand they be captured and brought to Erudite. She needs a Divergent to open a box that contains a special message from the founders of the faction system. Meanwhile, Tris and Four team up with the remaining loyal members of Dauntless and the Factionless to form an army in the hopes of overthrowing Jeanine and Erudite.  

Continuing with the trend of dystopic stories that were originally a book series targeted to a teenage audience, "Insurgent" picks up right where "Divergent" left off, meaning that, without seeing the first film in the series, you'll be pretty damn lost. Tris is still haunted by the events that took place at Abnegation, her former home. She has nightmares about her mother and father, who sacrificed themselves to save her, as well as how she was forced to kill her close friend, Will. Worse yet, Erudite has created propaganda in the form of virtual videos (eerily reminiscent of President Snow's messages in "The Hunger Games," only with a lady president instead) that blame Tris and Four for leading Dauntless in the assault on Abnegation, which is untrue, but you know how propaganda works. What's different about "Insurgent" compared to "Divergent" is the first film was almost entirely about Dauntless and Tris' quest to train and fit in, discovering along the way whether she had what it took to make it or not in her chosen faction. This time around, she is fully trained and there is much more action beyond simple training games. Erudite, instructed by Jeanine, consistently runs assaults on the other factions, rounding up all those who stood against them at Abnegation, as well as all those pesky Divergents, which up until now, have yet to be found. We get a little more depth on some of the other factions. In the beginning of the film, we get to see more about Amity, who are basically hippie pacifists who do the farming, which makes things difficult for the ultra-aggressive Dauntless-trained Tris, Four and Peter, who are hiding out there. Sometimes, their aggression gets the better of them, causing disruptions where they promised there would be none. After a raid on Amity, Tris, Four and Tris' brother Caleb, played by Shailene Woodley's former "The Fault in Our Stars" lover Ansel Elgort, and Peter, played by Shailene Woodley's former "The Spectacular Now" lover Miles Teller, hide out where Amity can't find them, only to be sold down the river by Peter. Tris, Four and Caleb make a run for it, ending up on a train filled with the Factionless, those who failed their chosen faction and had to make a permanent home where the previous had none. After a brief overnight stay with them at Naomi Watt's Evelyn's house, who gets explained more in the movie but we want to leave out due to spoilers, Tris and Four meet up with the rest of Dauntless and some of the Factionless in Candor, the faction that always tells the truth to a fault. Upon being "captured" by Candor's leader Jin, errrrr, Jack Kang, played by "Lost" star Daniel Dae Kim, Tris and Four are brought to trial in the home of the group who uses a truth serum to get people to express their deepest, darkest secrets and lies. This trial scene is one of the best in the film. The main foundation of this movie as a whole lies in its simulation sequences towards the end of the movie. Once captured by Jeanine, Tris has to run through one simulation for all five factions to open a box with a message from the founders of their city. This gives filmmakers the opportunity to do some over-the-top fantasy/dream/action sequences where buildings float and things explode over and over again. Though these scenes are pretty cool, it is blatantly obvious these sequences were developed strictly as 3D eye candy as objects often fly out towards the screen. While this can be annoying, we didn't mind them much since it gave the film some much needed action.

Let's make one thing clear: this sequel works because of Shailene Woodley. She is able to really show off her acting abilities in this movie, well, pretty much with everything we have seen her in, apart from her stint on the dreadful "The Secret Life of the American Teenager," but then again, what would George Clooney be without "Return to Horror High," aye? Woodley does a particularly fantastic job during the above court scene, especially since she is required to cry and none of it looks fake. Well, Tris cries a lot in this movie, but at least her tears are compelling and believable. She is quite a wonderful actress who is placed in films because of her sheer talent, not just to be a symbol of vapidity, like a Megan Fox type. Everyone else, well, we can't really say the same for everyone else. One thing I noticed right off the bat was Kate Winslet's sheer look of boredom in most of her scenes. Granted, she is basically in "Insurgent" to stand and watch Divergents taking these trial simulations over and over and over again while walking around a weird, metal looking room holding a clipboard. Booooooooooooooring. Her interactions with Tris are much more muted this time around, even though they do have one compelling part together in the sim. BigJ thinks her stoic, bored look is because filmmakers were trying to make her look sociopathic. Isn't it weird how all sociopaths in movies lately are really intelligent? #FoodForThought. Theo James and Shailene Woodley do have compelling chemistry together, but Four by himself was nothing special. There was one particular scene they had together that puzzled me somewhat, too. In the first movie, Tris made it a point to say she wanted to take things slow with Four in their budding relationship. That being said, between the crying and the simming, they do the dirty and it just felt completely out of place, especially considering Tris' emotional state and with all the nightmares haunting her. It felt flimsily added for ~*swooning~* teenage girls. One of the best parts of "Divergent," Jai Courtney's character Eric, Dauntless leader turned Erudite pawn, hardly has any screen time, as well as Zoe Kravitz's Christina, who is Tris' BFF, and was inseparable from her in the original movie. Apart from a few scenes, these characters are almost non-existent.

As we said before, we never read the "Divergent" book series, but to our understanding, there is quite a lot changed in the films from what is in the books. This happens quite a bit with book to movie adaptations, but here, a lot of the details felt really shoddily put together, almost as if filmmakers were throwing everything they had, both from the book and not from the book, into this second installment without the definite, for sure answer about a third film. Before the last 2 minutes of this film happened, it appeared as if the movie was going to end completely, almost as if filmmakers didn't know if they were going to get to make "Allegiant," the third book/film in the franchise, and it would all be directly contingent upon how well "Insurgent" did at the box offices. It is obvious that this is possibly the darkest of the trilogy, considering its topics of murder (like, actual murder this time, just not "murder before we put a stop to it"), suicide, mind control and propaganda. That being said, this is a good movie, but not a great one, and one that requires a lot of suspension of disbelief and has a ton of moving parts, some of which don't get fully explained.

My Rating: 6/10
BigJ's Rating: 7/10
IMDB's Rating: 7.0/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 32%
Do we recommend this movie: Sure, why not?

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