– Summary –
Director : Robert Schwentke
Year Of Release : 2015
Principal Cast : Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Octavia Spencer, Kate Winslet, Jai Courtney, Ray Stevenson, Zoe Kravitz, Miles Teller, Ansel Elgort, Maggie Q, Naomi Watts, Mekhi Phifer, Daniel Dae Kim, Keiynan Lonsdale, Ashley Judd, Suki Waterhouse, Janet McTeer, Rosa Salazaar.
Approx Running Time : 119 Minutes
Synopsis: Beatrice Prior must confront her inner demons and continue her fight against a powerful alliance which threatens to tear her society apart with the help from others on her side.
What we think : Devoid of emotion, Insurgent’s rote script and ham-fisted plot contrivances play out with the subtlety of a mid-afternoon snooze. Painfully dull, reliant on too much talking and chess-board character rotation, Insurgent’s cold open and franchise mandated conclusion leave the viewer empty of conclusive enjoyment for the entirety of its two-hour running time. I think I slept through about half the film, woke up, and felt like I’d missed nothing.
From the director of R.I.P.D.
Sporting a new director in the form of Robert Schwentke, the man behind memorable classics like Flightplan, RED, and The Time Traveller’s Wife, the second film in the cumbersomely plotted Divergent saga may feel slightly different than its predecessor, but reduced to a cliffnotes version really isn’t. Tired cliches from the Young Adult genre abound, similarly to the same conventions of other series’ such as The Hunger Games and The Maze Runner, in which a persecuted youth rise up and take back “their” world from an oppressive dystopian power structure. As much as I like to judge each film (or each film series) on its merits, Insurgent suffers the same maladies which made Divergent such a bothersome chore to get through.
It’s obvious that the Divergent films are seen by Hollywood as a “prestige” project, somehow managing to entice big name stars to appear in even the smallest, most inconsequential roles, to simply add names to a poster to drag people into the cinema. One wonders if it’s some vast conspiracy by a producer with pictures of each of the cast f@cking a goat or something, because there’s no way any actor with dreams of Oscar glory would appear in these kinds of films for the art. Divergent, and by extension Insurgent, are paycheck films, devoid of soul and designed purely by committee to saturate the market with more Hunger Games-esque franchise building that means little more than dollars in a till. Artistic merit counts for naught here, in this vapid, boring, chunderously insipid sci-fi “romp” that aspires to be highbrow, and fails utterly.
Shailene Woodley reprises her role as Tris Prior, the newbie recruit to an underground faction of rebels who desire to usurp the ruling class (embodied by a truly odious Janine, played by Kate Winslet, who looks like she’s having a blast – if only we could too!). Tris’ burgeoning relationship with hunka-hunka-man Tobias (Theo James) continues, even as they’re pursued by Janine’s henchman, Eric (Jai Courtney), and his associate Max (Mekhi Phifer), while Janine needs them captured to open some weird Fifth Element style box or something. Tris continues to have visions (none of which matter), while her brother Caleb (Ansel Elgort – seriously dude, I giggle ever time I write or read your name) decides he’s had enough of the rebellion and calls time on running around. People spend the film talking about the various factions within the franchise’s society – Dauntless, Erudite, Candor, and a bunch of others. There’s a gradual swell of characters who decide to turn on Janine’s authoritarian rule, but honestly, they do f@ck all about it.
If you take anything away from Insurgent’s “I’m a middle film” story and sense of incompleteness, know that the concluding chapter has, like Hunger Games, Harry Potter and seemingly every other franchise in the last decade, split its finale into two films. Great. Another two films worth of gormless, charmless angst by gorgeous rebel teenagers with cool skills but underwhelming firepower. I’ll race out and prebook my tickets, shall I? F@ck that. I would have thought people would be keen to finish this crapfest as soon as possible, not drag things out even further than it already is.
The fact I can’t actually remember what happened in the first film speaks volumes of just how epochal the Divergent saga has become (to be honest, I’d forgotten the films even existed, that’s how little I thought of them) so to find myself encumbered with Insurgent was a bit of a disappointment. Did that mean I had to go back and rewatch a film I barely remember anyway?
I didn’t. Instead, I went into Insurgent cold, to try and figure out what was going on with almost zero memory of the characters or the scenario. To be honest, I didn’t give Insurgent much chance, largely because I felt the premise was just so bland, and the characters so interchangeable, and my concern was borne out as Insurgent played out before me. Insurgent is big-budget snooze-fest, a passionless, melancholy, exposition-filled venture into a world nobody really gives a shit about.
These characters might have a life on the printed page, within the original books they’re drawn from, but on the screen they just feel like empty vessels, lacking any genuine sense of humanity other than what little the cast can muster.
The script talks a lot of talk, but rarely walks the walk it talks. Tris’ visions are inserted within the narrative without any foundation, and the disconnect between the audience and any arc she might have is mitigated by a lot of pontificating. A lot. I know, it’s only the “middle” film, but I’m rapidly losing patience for films that insist on inorganically lacking basic storytelling technique – a beginning, a middle, and an end. A conclusion doesn’t need to mean the end of a story, but it does need to resolve something, hell anything, before the close. Insurgent’s long-game storytelling and indifferent emotional trajectories (especially with the one supposedly leading the film, Tris) make for hard-slog watching.
It would be okay if the premise itself wasn’t so generic, so insipidly given life on the screen. The plot’s convoluted machinations mean little, and when characters die or are injured, or betray others, or something, you get the feeling you’re supposed to feel either shock, surprise, anger or maybe a mixture of them all; instead, plot “twists” land with the cathartic thud of a barely stifled yawn. About the only part of the film with any impact are scenes involving Kate Winslet’s odious Janine, the villainous President Snow of this franchise, and it’s only through Winslet’s sheer screen presence the film lifts at all. Neither Shailene Woodley or Theo James, as the film’s two leads, can bring any gravitas to proceedings, instead mired in half-baked romantic interludes and a badly handled “quest” narrative as they travel across the desolate former city of Chicago.
The ubiquitous Jai Courtney, who appears to have a Hollywood mandate to be in every major franchise (Die Hard, Terminator, WB’s Suicide Squad, etc), does solid work as Eric, the vindictive and cruel Dauntless traitor, who works under the thrall of Janine. Octavia Spencer shows up to collect a paycheck as some hippie boss-lady, while Ray Stevenson lasts about as long as the opening credits before he’s taken out of the film.
Ansel Engort, who plays Tris’ brother Caleb, is given a character without backbone, while Miles Teller’s Peter might as well have been played by a stump of wood. Naomi Watts shows up as some woman claiming to be Tobias’s mother or something (I’d tuned out by then) and she has a blonde hairdo that made me have to look twice, while Maggie Q’s cameo appearance is thankless. Literally, you just know some of these people shot a scene in a day and that’s it. Ugh. What a waste.
Insurgent, much like its predecessor film (and no doubt the next two installments as well) is a generic, well produced but ultimately sleep-apnea inducing slogfest, a bloodless, frustratingly dull sci-fi outing trying to squeeze the tit of the Young Adult genre until it’s purple. Honestly, between this, the Hunger Games and whatever the hell The Maze Runner thing was, the genre’s now a tired, flogged out horse reduced to intermediate word association of exceptionally similar conflicts. I’ve had more fun with vasectomy pain.