Friday 20 March 2015

Review: Insurgent

Year: 2015
Director: Robert Schwentke
Screenplay: Brian Duffield, Avika Goldman
Starring: Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Ansel Elgort, Miles Teller, Kate Winslet, Naomi Watts, Jai Courtney, Zoe Kravitz, Maggie Q, Daniel Dae Kim, Ray Stevenson, Octavia Spencer

Synopsis is here:

After spending over four hours in the Divergent universe, watching Insurgent the day before, I can honestly say that’s all I’ll need. I don’t regret my time spent with the young adult series. The importance of such franchises within the cinematic world, is definitely not lost on me. I must, however stress that despite the film’s progression of feminine goals, narratively, as with the first film, feels cumbersome and confounding at the worst of times and predictable at best. This is the heroine’s journey at its most basic. Yet we’re constantly thrown terms and descriptions which seem awkward for even the actors pronouncing them. Within the first act of this second entry, as I found Divergent, I felt that Insurgent is probably far more memorable as a book than a film.

Such discouraging thoughts come easily due to Insurgent’s ineffective screenplay. It is a film with a mass converging of characters, all jostling for screen time, yet struggling to gain the right amount of significance that they actually deserve because the film must push on with the lead character’s “neo complex”. I don’t mean this to be a negative on the role of Tris, who is ably played by Shailene Woodley. However Insurgent is so wrapped up in the character that other, clearly important characters are criminally underwritten. A perfect example of this is with the character of Tris’ brother Caleb Prior played by Ansel Elgort (The Fault in Our Stars). Far too often the character makes grand choices which motivate the plot yet are vaguely construed the man himself. Meanwhile the film’s central relationship between Tris and Four (Theo James) convincing, yet their connections between everyone else are often weakly portrayed. Much of the plot is clearly entangled between the youthful leads and their parents, but nothing is ever given much detail or resonance.

The frustrating thing about Insurgent, as with Divergent, is that nothing seems to stick. Visually the film is slick, glossy and feels a lot more open, but is still rather more functional than stand out. I’ve seen The Maze Runner (2014) and find both Insurgent and Divergent a tad more interesting (particularly the action sequences), but still quite ordinary when it comes to the characters and their interactions. It’s a film that has motifs and scenes that will remind you of more interesting/entertaining features. I doubt anyone is surprised that the Divergent series gained a greenlight once the likes of The Hunger Games became successful. I also wouldn’t be surprised if many other favour Katniss over Tris, although both are still playing an important part in terms of female roles with agency.

For me it speaks volumes that, as me and my girlfriend left the cinema, I mention how much of the divergence test in the film made me think about Luke’s trials in The Empire Strikes Back (1980). My girlfriend, who has no interest in Star Wars, was taken back by this.  I feel one reason being, that such action packed young adult action has been aimed at guys for so long, that aspects of this franchise generally feel fresh for females whom have never been interested before. Perhaps my cynicism gets the better of me. Insurgent works for my girlfriend, I was merely taken for a ride. Like so many women have been obliged to when guys get to see boys play with their toys. So as derivative as I may have found it, it looks to be opening doors for others. So silver linings.