I love March. It marks the beginning of the end for the toughest time in the 9-5 and the beginning of movies worth watching in the theatres – at least it usually is. This year is really not off to a good start and I just looked at April and with one major exception (Furious 7) there is next to nothing until Age of Ultron. I also seem to be among the few who did not like Cinderella last week; at least until the Walker brothers discussed it recently. So this week we got the sequel to last years Divergent.
Does Insurgent live up to it’s name and break the trend?
First, let me compare a bit to last years review. My friend at the coffee bar at the theatre told me there was a near full house for earlier showings yet my show was near empty. This time, the house was nearly full in one of the largest rooms they have there; which tells me this one grew despite the mediocre ratings the first one got. I still haven’t read the books, though they do look nice in my library – which means this review is still going to talk about the work from a purely cinematic standpoint. My last review talked about dystopian teen fiction at length for a bit.
Divergent took the tact of giving us a movie about class-ism or elitism and threw it out the window by giving us a main character who isn’t of any caste. It’s a pleasant twist. Insurgent continues the story of Tris Prior, a divergent, picking up days/weeks after the events of the last movie. This time the story is as much internal as it is external dealing with Tris facing her demons within and without. I rather enjoyed the conceit as we have a world where that can actually be a real thing to you.
Rather than keep the writers from the last film, three new writers come in. That’s usually not a good thing as my rule of three comes into play. I haven’t mentioned the rule for awhile and have some new readers. If you get to three or more writers for a film there is a degradation in the quality of the film. Too many writers, rewrites, and cooks in the kitchen and it tends to show in the final work. It does here too. Newcomer Brian Duffield was involved, working with Akiva Goldsman (Winter’s Tale, Angels & Demons, I Am Legend), and Mark Bomback (The Wolverine, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes). I can’t tell what Duffield did for this movie as I have nothing to compare against. Goldsman brought his ability to write someone facing their own psychology, while Bomback brought a sense of reasonably well written action. By their powers combined, however, we get a bit of a mess.
The movie, much like the first, meanders a bit too much and has some odd pacing and tonal switches. It wants to address some things and then decides not to. It gives you threats then promptly ignores most of them. Like the first I have an overwhelming sense of meh for what I watched; and yet an interest to see what they do next. I am not sure how that works more than the movie falling to Middle of the Trilogy syndrome where it comes across as mostly filler but provides a set up for a more interesting finale.
I think the writers are not solely to blame for me not caring too much, as the director is the one who brought us one of the most bilious, refuse laden, nausea inducing films I have ever watched R.I.P.D.. I have such contempt for that film and likely find Robert Schwentke to blame for any flaws in films he works on. While, again, I have not read the books, I blame the director for me being deeply annoyed with most of the characters in the film. I blame the director for wasting Shailene Woodley as Tris.
I do not blame Shailene (Fault in our Stars), she actually does a good job. I understand her logic. I understand her fears. She makes sense and every decision – makes sense. That is so rare and most of that comes from the actor being able to pull off the nuance of emotions. Sadly something happened between the last movie and this one (I’ll blame Schwentke) with Woodley and her romantic co star Theo James (Underworld 4) who plays Four. I could be missing something but for the better part of the film I don’t feel chemistry between them, which is sad as much of the film needs that. There are exceptions, but not nearly enough.
Kate Winslet, as Jeanine, is one cat short of being a Bond villain. Jai Courtney still annoys me and I am reasonably certain they used a cardboard cut out in two scenes with him and they turned in a better performance than the actor. Ansel Elgort (also Fault in our Stars) does well with what he has, but I don’t think he has much. Miles Teller (Footloose, Whiplash, and the upcoming Fantastic Four) is surprisingly enjoyable; even when he’s a jerk. He just makes his character work. The rest of the cast is entirely not worth mentioning – which is unfortunate.
From a technical perspective I’ve already hinted at some pacing issues. There are horrifically bad CGI birds that keep coming. When CinemaSins gets their hands on this, I fully expect at least one Birdemic joke; they are that bad. They are also totally unexplainable from the cinematic narrative. Someone who read the book might be able to explain them but from someone who only has the cinema to go from they make no sense. Most of the green screen is hidden and the action is pretty good. It isn’t perfect from a CG perspective but it does better than most.
Once again I find myself in the category of meh. I don’t think I had high hopes for this one. It proved me right as it is clearly a middle less interesting film that serves no point than to prepare us for something new with Allegiant.
If you liked the first one, or have at least seen the first one. Continue the story. Give it a watch, you won’t feel your time is wasted. There are some genuinely good moments amidst the ok ones.
If you haven’t watched the first, you’ll want to before watching this. If you don’t you may care even less.
There’s nothing major to see here. This isn’t the game changer for 2015 we were looking for. I don’t suppose I believed it would be, but it would have been nice.