There’s a movie that comes before Insurgent,
called Divergent, but it’s so unmemorable that any viewer could be
forgiven for being completely in the dark when the first images of Tris
(Shailene Woodley), Four (Theo James), Caleb (Ansel Elgort) and Peter (Miles
Teller) pop on screen. Who are these young scrubs? What are they doing at the
edge of a forest? And why are they approaching a bunch of colorfully dressed
farmers who all have sunshine bursting from their asses?
Such are the weighty, or at least
present, thoughts that may well accompany you as you try to remember why you
should give a shit about any of these people. Teller naturally acquits himself
first, winking at a young farmer on a food line and telling her to have a
Everyone else earns his keep over the
rest of the movie, sort of. James doesn’t have to do much but look pretty and
grab Woodley a million times by the wrist (not a great image, filmmakers).
Caleb moons like a depressed puppy. And Woodley sports a pixie cut that at best
is a bad idea and at worst is distracting.
Maybe the distraction is a ploy to
keep you from thinking about the story. Insurgent, bless its heart,
relies even more on Young Adult fiction tropes than The Hunger Games, a
series it resembles from top to bottom.
On the story front, Insurgent
has two problems. First, its plot is so etched in stone that there’s absolutely
no room for character development. That’s why Four, even after learning his
mother, rebellion/Factionless leader Evelyn (a welcome Naomi Watts), is alive,
doesn’t register an emotion beyond exhausted, presumably from all the running.
Tris is a bigger dilemma, and she
embodies the story’s second problem. She views the death of her mother and
father in the first film as her fault, and she hates herself for it. She also
killed one of her friends and is at odds with her brother (Elgort). But all of
these things she struggles with are plot developments designed to kick the
story in the butt. There are absolutely no stakes in her character arc. When
the map is configured before you got there, who cares how you reach the end?
As written, Tris needs to make
certain realizations at certain times, otherwise the story falls apart. And as
for that story, it’s just dumb. The ending—when the contents of a mysterious
box are revealed—makes absolutely no sense on a human level,
given everything that comes before it. But for the YA audience, it’s perfect.
To be divergent is to be wonderfully unique, and your weirdness, character
defects and imperfections are what will save the world.
It sounds more like an AA meeting than it does a story thread in a major motion
Woodley, of whom I’m normally a big
fan, struggles in Insurgent. She still has that squeaky teen voice that
makes her difficult to believe when she says, “We need to kill Jeanine” (Kate
Winslet). But maybe she’s difficult to believe because no one could possibly be
scared of someone named Jeanine. Whatever the case, there will be—this is a
guess—mindfuckery from beyond the walls and skullfuckery from Four’s mother
(and the studio) in Allegiant, which is guaranteed to be two movies
itself one day. Ugh.
by Robert Schwentke
Winslet, Woodley, and James
Santa Fe Reporter