Director Robert Schwentke Starring Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Mile Teller, Kate Winslet, Ansel Elgort, Jai Courtney, Octavia Spencer, Zoe Kravitz, Maggie Q, Naomi Watts
Recently I’ve been approaching my blog as more of a business, and a part of that process has been expanding the scope of films I choose to review. Included in that scope isn’t just a larger variety of genres but also quality, and though it does displease me whenever I feel I’ve wasted my time it’s the risk you take.
But in certain cases everything has a limit and I’ve found it with Insurgent. Though I’ve yet to read any of the novels I have seen a number of young adult adaptations and it’s dawned on me that they all have something in common – everything. You could argue that this is the case with any genre but it couldn’t be truer for YA. Furthermore, not only do I have a sense of deja vu I’m also very disappointed with what’s being offered. It’s a reminder that just because something is popular and successful it doesn’t dictate its quality.
The status quo from the first film is instantly re-established. Tris Prior (Shailene Woodley), her brother Caleb (Ansel Elgort), and lover Four (Theo James) with tag-along Peter (Miles Teller) are hiding in Amity’s hippy commune. Meanwhile, back in Chicago Jeanine Matthews (Kate Winslet) spreads anti-divergent propaganda and evil Eric (Jai Courtney) leads a merciless hunt for our heroes.
When they’re forced to make an escape on a train they encounter hundreds of faction-less fodder that Tris and Four dispatch with ease. Four then randomly reveals his true identity, the faction-less forget the two of them just killed a bunch of their people and everything is cool. They meet their leader, Evelyn Johnson-Eaton (Naomi Watts), but after an argument between her and Four he and Tris continue on towards Candor territory. Caleb is unwilling to join them in their crusade and turns back to Abnegation. The film moved so quickly, changing from one setting to the next it was hard to maintain a fix on what was going on around them.
It’s at Candor that the film announces its overall themes. Jack Kang (Daniel Dae Kim) administers a truth serum to both Tris and Four, and Tris admits to her true reflections on herself stemming from her past. Eric and his army of pawns later descend on Candor, searching for divergent, shooting devices that lodge in peoples skin. The film cheaply adds drama by teasing Tris’ death only to be instantly saved by the conveniently timed Four, who then back-flips on his anti-war stance in an unbelievable change of heart.
The devices shot by Jeanine’s soldiers activate, putting three Candor members into a trance that sees them almost commit suicide while repeatedly chanting at Tris to turn herself over. The tertiary character falls to her death, the young boy is saved because children don’t die and the named Christina (Zoe Kravitz) is caught at the last second by Tris. At last the trouble Tris and Four cause for everyone is acknowledged as the faction-less and Candor members argue over turning her over to save themselves. Instead she willing submits to Jeanine’s tests, which involve divergent entering a five-level simulation in an attempt to open a random mystery box. Why it’s opened in this manner is never explained.
The establishment of the five simulations as the most harrowing known to man is instantly squashed as Tris runs through four of them like she’s taking a morning walk. She then discovers Four has been captured, and from here everything goes to crap. Peter has his own random change of heart, the mystery box is opened and the truth about the divergent is revealed. Convenient timing helps save Tris yet again, who just gets over all her issues and everybody lives happily ever after… until they drag things out over the next two films.
Behind the scenes this film is embarrassingly awful. The script is that standard of a straight-to-DVD action film; it’s incredibly generic, full of badly-written dialogue, inconsistent character development and so lathered with CGI you’re well aware the dilapidated scenes you’re looking at are entirely fake. Buying into this film was impossible.
Tris spends most of the film hating herself before forgetting her problems ever existed while her and Four are immune to death and cause trouble everywhere they go, yet expect everybody to be just as invested in their plight. Jeanine is a stock villain who describes her thoughts to herself with unnatural exposition and Peter’s supporting role is nothing more than a caricature. Meanwhile Caleb’s motives and actions make absolutely no sense at all.
The supporting cast are there purely to advance the plot, they display one single emotion and are given the most generic of lines that left scenes severely lacking depth. None of them, main cast included, are fleshed out enough for us to buy the character profiles we’re supposed to be seeing. Their emotional journey was the focal point of the script but because I never had a decent reason to invest in them I couldn’t connect with anything in this film.
The fact that this was the finished product had me scratching my head. How could the writers so obviously half-arse a script this badly and yet it becomes the finished product? Then it hit me – I went to see it. So did a theatre full of people with me, and their families, plus the fans of the books and fans of the YA genre. The production companies and the writers knew no matter how bad a job they did it was always going to be a hit because the fans would pay to see it regardless of what reviews say. This is an instance where are and potential achievement has taken a backseat to making a few dollars more, and because of that I can’t wait for this young adult phase to be over.