Insurgent (2015)

03/23/2015  By  Ashley Herald     Comments Off

I feel pretty comfortable saying that 90% of YA-aimed movies are a cesspool of low-effort high-budget mediocrity: most YA movies are bad to middling. Every now and then one of them is pretty entertaining for what it is, but for the most part they are mediocre, which is just insulting to their audience, really. You don’t get out of being expected to make a good movie just because it’s aimed at kids or teenagers, all right? Babies and teens deserve quality in their movies, too. Pixar’s been destroying the market for quality kids’ movies; nobody really seems to be on par with that for YA so far, and the Divergent series sure as hell isn’t gonna be the one to get it started.

All right, all right: Insurgent. Divergent/Insurgent take place in a weird dystopian society where everybody is shuffled off into one of five groups: the selfless, the brave, the intelligent, the peaceful, and the honest. If you don’t “qualify” as any of those, you are factionless, and if you qualify as more than one, then you’re Divergent. Beatrice “Tris” Prior (Shailene Woodley) is special, because she apparently is all five? Because having more than one personality trait is itself a superpower, I guess. Because Divergents “threaten the system,” Presidential Tyrant Jeanine (Kate Winslet) orders her forces to kill Tris and then blah blah blah politics. Do you really care? The movie doesn’t seem to.

shot a man

I shot a man in Amity, just to watch him die.

Divergent, to which Insurgent is a sequel, was one of those YA movies that was just bloated, boring trash. It wasn’t clever or especially funny, its premise (Tris is special for having more than one personality trait???) is barely credible, and it is two and a half fucking hours long for some unfathomable reason. In it, Tris, at the tender age of 16, shacks up with one of her instructors, who goes by “Four” but is actually named Tobias (Theo James). He happens to be 24, but what’s a little eight year age gap between a teenager and a legal adult when it comes to true love, amirite? This is the world in which we are operating.

Point being, Divergent was bad with a few nice touches, and Insurgent has risen above its predecessor to be… mediocre. I can feel the depth of your surprise at this truly shocking revelation.

The thing that really gets me about Insurgent is that there are a few really cool, super neat sequences, mostly to do with simulations and testing the brain for inner traits (a road of trials kinda schtick) coupled with some great visuals, but the cool stuff is so few and far between in this over-two-hours movie that the pace of the film just feels glacial. We’re talking slower than turtle snot. Example: we meet Four’s mom and I got the impression I’m supposed to have a big reaction to her, but really we just see the only somewhat level-headed person in the series flipping his shit over how shitty his mom is. Almost everything that happens in the movie has this feeling: the movie presents it as though we are supposed to be aghast, but these flicks just haven’t put the work in to make us invested.

ew

Insurgent, or, why is that 24-year-old man banging that 16-year-old girl and how can I make them stop?

The trailer paints this film as being an exciting action flick aimed at teenage girls, but the reality falls pathetically short. The few actions scenes in the movie are pretty cool, but they’re separated by bland angst in which teenagers evidence little to no character growth. Tris has all the makings of a compelling lead; she desperately wants revenge, she’s invested in the well-being of others, and she has the training to make herself into a very credible threat… but she gets stupidly little time to show any of this off. When allowed to explore the simulations and problem solving therein, Tris really gets to shine, and we get the cool surreal action promised in the trailer, but those bits make up barely a third of the movie. At a guess, I’d say the movie has adaptation syndrome: since it is being adapted for fans of the book, it sticks so close to the book that it strangles all its potential as film. These are different mediums, they don’t have to be identical, you know? Let the poor movie breathe. Or just let it suffocate into mediocre garbage because it’s for teen girls, and what do they know, right?

All of this is pretty disappointing, because conceptually Insurgent does a neat job of blending some of the cooler ideas from The Hunger Games and The Giver, and Tris is in a position to be a much more compelling protagonist than Katniss, but the execution here is just sloppy. Kate Winslet outclasses everyone she’s onscreen with, Miles Teller’s tragically limited screentime is just about the only comic relief we get from the non-stop tension, Woodley seems more interested in what she’s going to have for dinner than delivering her lines, and Theo James should really probably be in a better movie. One where he doesn’t play an adult fucking a teenager.

I’m gonna be straight with you: it’s a mess. There’s no way you’ll have any idea what’s going on in this movie if you didn’t see Divergent, and why the hell would you go back and watch that even more boring movie now? If you’ve got a craving for action at the movies, go see Fast and Furious 7, and if you’re a teenage girl hoping for a cool movie with a cool teenage girl protagonist, Tris is pretty cool, but I’m sorry that your options are so painfully limited.

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Acting
Originality
Some Cool Visuals
Generating Pathos
Slower Than Turtle Snot

About Ashley Herald

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Ashley Herald is an avid lover of science and science fiction, sociology, cinema, and other things that start with an "s" sound. When not writing for Front Row Central they pursue graduate degrees. You can follow them on twitter: @ash_words